Service Workers Deserve Higher Pay. They Also Desperately Need Some Vacation.

A blog about business and economics.
July 31 2014 1:12 PM

Service Workers Deserve Higher Pay. They Also Desperately Need Some Vacation.

81944278-yera-dominguez-counts-out-change-for-a-customer-at
Part-time cashiers need vacation time, too.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In Europe, vacation time is treated as a human right. In the United States, we see it as a perk—employers aren’t legally required to give their workers paid time off for rest, even on national holidays. So just as we get income inequality, we get leisure inequality, which is illustrated nicely in a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report on which jobs come with vacation benefits. As Wonkblog’s Christopher Ingraham pointed out yesterday, “Managers are nearly twice as likely as service workers to get paid time off.”

vacation_graph_bls

I think numbers like these really speak to a bigger story about the mistreatment of part-time workers, who are of course concentrated in the service industry. Companies tend to treat their part-timers as cheap, on-call labor, adjusting workers’ schedules on the fly to meet customer demand. So management dislikes the idea of paid time off not only because it would cost money but because it would make it harder to phone up their staff at the last minute and haul them onto cashier duty. In the end, just 35 percent of part-time workers in the private sector get paid vacation, compared with 91 percent of full-timers, which, along with their erratic schedules, makes it even harder to control their time and lives.

Advertisement

The lesson is that if the U.S. does one day join the rest of the developed world and mandate paid vacation days, we ought to make sure part-timers get it too—otherwise we’ll end up making them look even cheaper and easier to abuse in comparison with full-timers.

Jordan Weissmann is Slate's senior business and economics correspondent.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

The Ludicrous Claims Women Are Pitched at “Egg Freezing Parties”

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 1:11 PM This Company Wants to Fight World Hunger With Flies 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM The Many Faces of Texas
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM Watch a Crowd Go Wild When Steve Jobs Moves a Laptop in This 1999 Demonstration of WiFi
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 12:01 PM Rocky Snow
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.