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Taking the merry out of Christmas

Melvin B. Miller
Taking the merry out of Christmas
“They must have appointed the Grinch who stole Christmas as their leader.”

America came dangerously close to an economic disaster. Railroad workers unions were about to strike. This would have disrupted the shipment of merchandise during the nation’s busiest season. About 40% of the country’s freight is shipped by train. Economists estimate that the strike would have created an economic loss of $2 billion per day. Fortunately, President Biden was able to intervene and postpone resolution of the problem.

Americans should be astounded to learn that one of the most pressing union demands was to have paid sick leave. Now railroad workers who do not come to work because of illness are not paid for their absence. In fact, they might well be fired for failing to go to work. Sick leave is such a common employee benefit that even conservative-oriented Americans were surprised to learn that the nation’s economic stability was compromised by miserly railroad executives.

However, U.S. corporations have never been recognized as world leaders in providing generous employee benefits. In fact, slave labor on plantations in the antebellum South was responsible for building America’s economic base. Now modern European countries have adopted more generous policies to attract the brightest and best as fellow employees. The objective of the cotton baron was to provide slaves with crude shelter and adequate food to maintain his energy level for picking cotton. The life sustaining cost was at a low level.

For some time, European countries have provided generous amounts of annual leave. Among other benefits, Sweden has an annual 25-day leave policy. There are also benefits for family leave. In order to afford these paid absences, the salaries of top executives have to be more modest than the standard in America.

Unfortunately, the theme in America is to respect and emulate personal success. People are required to find a way to get to the top. There is little communal responsibility for those who were unable to attain CEO status, regardless of the impediment. In fact, there is some disrespect for those who tried and failed.

Those with vision believe that the government should step in with programs to improve every citizen’s quality of life. There should be adequate housing, health care, educational opportunities and employment with sufficient revenue to support a family. And Social Security benefits should provide reasonable comfort for the elderly.

But here we are, in the Christmas season of generosity, denying railroad employees the right to recover from illness without losing their jobs.

editorial, paid sick leave, railroad strike
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