Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What can be done? A new approach, a new strategy

Until now efforts have mostly consisted in articles, opinions, produced at regular intervals by a relatively small number of people interested in promoting the concept of paid vacation for all (Robert Reich, Juliet Schor, John de Graaf, etc.).
There has been a few attempts at legislating at the federal level, without success. Considering the present disposition of the House of Representatives it is doubtful there is any hope of passing such a legislation in the sort term.
What can be done?
I suggest a new approach, a new strategy for a permanent campaign, based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 24) and the UN Global Compact that reaches out to corporations to implement basic human rights.

While there is no federal mandate in the US for paid vacations, many companies provide them anyway and estimates are that about 75% of the US workforce do get paid vacations.
Why did those companies provide paid vacations? Because their leaders have decided it was good business practice to do so.
I think we need a campaign to raise the awareness about all the companies that are providing extensive paid vacations, explain why they are doing so and put the pressure on the corporations that don't to change their behavior.
The UN Global Compact can be used to invite companies that do provide paid vacations to require companies that work for them (suppliers, contractors) to provide paid vacations, ie respect and implement article 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
My first test of this approach is going to be Microsoft.
Any effective campaign needs coalition building (bringing together companies and business leaders that champion paid vacations), stories to tell (testimonies of corporate leaders and employees about their support for paid vacations), cases to defend and win. What the legislative process cannot provide can be gained via the marketplace, with companies requiring paid vacations as part of the contracts they award,  creating a positive recognition of the the companies that provide paid vacations and creating a negative recognition and an incentive to change for the ones that don't.
I like the way the New York Times in July 1911 asked President Taft and business leaders how long they thought regular vacations should be. This is a survey that can be updated and extended. It would be a way to raise the awareness about the issues and frame them in human rights and economic efficiency perspective.
I think it is important to give detailed examples and show how this can be achieved, starting with -hopefully- inspiring examples of companies changing their policies toward paid vacations for all.

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