Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Have American Workers Left $126b On the Table?

I actually had to read the brief report (p. 15) in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Money magazine several times to ensure I'd read it correctly. That according to statistics compiled by Hotwire, American workers were leaving nearly $126 billion total "on the table" (or if you will, in the hands of their employers, companies as unpaid labor) as the value of their total vacation days left untaken. This amount was based on the average of 6.2 days of vacation left unused per worker.

As the Money report pointed out, this doesn't even begin to assess the full value that these employees are giving away. Add in the health care spending by stressed employees (mainly those who choose not to take their full allottment of vacation days) and it amounts to "2½ times the figure for nonstressed co-workers" who DO take the days coming to them. This stat from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (ibid.).

Recall here that according to surplus value theory proposed by Karl Marx in his work, Kapital, if the labor value sold as a product or service is L, and V is the labor value embodied in the production of the item or service then the surplus value S is:

S = L - V

If an employee then earns $36,000 a year for generating a service or whatever other labor, and yields 6.2 days of his vacation time to the Boss Man, this translates to roughly $150 per working day assuming 20 such days per month. Then 6.2 days given up per year on average amounts to $930.

Then, by this reckoning V is the yearly paid labor or $36,000 and S is the unpaid labor or $930 per year. . The amount of labor expropriated per year is therefore equal to $930. Now, add in possible employee extra costs of $1,000 - say for health care or unpaid sick days - and you have $1,930 of labor exploited (this is assuming of course, the worker wouldn't have fallen ill had he taken his days and not been stressed out - leaving his immune system prey to flu, or other serious illness, even a stroke or heart condition. Of course in the latter cases the additional worker costs would be much greater!)

Meanwhile, the rate of surplus value per year, or the rate of yearly exploitation is:

S/V = ($1,930)/ ($36,000) = 0.053

In other words, the company or Boss Man is extracting 5.3% more work per year out of his forlorn employee than that employee is being remunerated.

WHY are Americans doing this for the capitalist one percent? So the high fliers can eat even more foie gras and enjoy 18 holes on St. Kitts every month, as their wives lavish in rose wine wraps every day? Of course, most workers will cite "fear" as the prime reason, meaning that if they take those days then they may likely return to find themselves without a job, never mind they might get ill from the added stress.

But the Money report offers a number of practical solutions as follows (ibid.):

1) Tack extra days onto business trips if you can

2) Take off a series of Fridays instead of taking a set of days one time

3) Block out time months in advance when you opt for (2)

The Money report adds that "simply anticipating a vacation increases your happiness"

Of course, it may increase your employer's unhappiness, but what's more important - taking those days as are owed you and devil take the hindmost, or....not taking them, getting a heart attack and croaking...then allowing your grubby employer to collect the $200k insurance he's taken out on you (and not told you about) via a "dead peasant's policy"?

It's time Americans cease allowing their greedy capitalist employers to eke out over 5% per year of surplus value from their hides. Get your 'commie' caps on, then read Marx' Kapital, and join the 'Occupy That Vacation" movement! NO MORE FREE LABOR TO THE 1%!

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