As Labor Day approaches, about a quarter (24 percent) of private sector workers will not be enjoying a paid day off on Monday. A similar number (23 percent) earn no paid vacation time. While this overall lack of paid holidays and vacation time is quite telling (especially compared to our international peers, who more or less universally mandate paid time off), access to paid time off varies dramatically between workers by their pay. As the chart below shows, only 34 percent of private-sector workers at the bottom of the wage distribution receive paid holidays and only 39 percent receive paid vacation. Among the top 10 percent of workers, meanwhile, 93 percent receive both paid holidays and paid vacation.
It’s important to remember how much the labor movement has done for workers: among its many victories are the establishment of weekends, the institution of a 40-hour work week, and the eradication of child labor. However, we must also remember what remains to be done, including guaranteeing that workers have access to paid leave.