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New Poll Shows Washington Workers Taking Less Paid Vacation Time

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60% of Voters Support Paid Vacation Measure
(March 5, 2009) A new poll of Washington (state) voters shows finds that the traditional two week paid vacation is a thing of the past for most Washington workers.  Currently, 71% of Washington workers get two or less paid weeks off, while 52% get one week or less.  33% currently get none at all. A new coalition is looking into solutions that would guarantee at least ten days of paid vacation time for full-time workers.

Take Back Your Time, Washington’s only statewide organization dedicated to advocating for a healthier work life balance, commissioned a statewide survey of Washington voters regarding individual vacation habits. True Blue Innovation conducted the survey that included 500 respondents.

“The problem is that people are stressed to the limit because they work too much,” says John de Graaf, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time. “Vacations help reduce stress and burnout in the workplace, increase worker productivity and give families precious time together, yet half of Washington’s workers get a week or less per year. We’re working ourselves to death.”

Health care professionals support de Graaf’s argument. “Vacations are good for your health,” says Dr. Stephen Bezruchka of the University of Washington School of Public Health. “They reduce chronic stress and depression and allow time for un-frenzied social contact with friends and family as well as physical activity. They can actually help reduce health care costs.”

Dave Batker, an economist who currently runs the non-profit Earth Economics, points out that “vacations are good for business too. They increase worker productivity and morale. They give workers a reward for dedicated work and that gratitude is returned in higher business productivity.”

A new group calling itself the “Vacation Matters Coalition” has formed to address Washington workers’ lack of vacation time. “Representatives from business, labor, and other organizations have joined a host of local activists to promote vacation as a way of creating a healthier lifestyle and to find a way for people to spend more time with their families,” says small business owner Troy Glennon of Go South Adventures. “Vacations are good for business and good for people.”

The coalition is researching ways to guarantee more vacation time for Washingtonians, including a ballot initiative. “With so much evidence that vacations are good for health and good for our economy,” says Take Back Your Time’s de Graaf, “we decided to ask Washington voters if they would support a pro-vacation ballot measure.”

In the new poll, respondents were asked: Would you support or oppose a measure requiring 10, 12 or 15 paid vacation days each year for full-time employees and pro-rated for part-timers? 26% of respondents said they would support 10 days of vacation. 7% supported 12 days of vacation. 28% supported a full 15 days of vacation. 40% would oppose any measure.

“We’re excited to get such a strong initial result,” adds Jessica Bonebright, a member of the Puget Sound Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, which has endorsed the proposed law. “We believe this new scientific sample of Washington voters means we may have a solution the voters might approve. In hard economic times, even more protections are needed for working Americans to spend time with their families and protect their health.”

“There is no question that many people are just worried about having a job at all in times like this, and may view paid vacations as a luxury,” de Graaf says.  “But in fact, vacations are not a luxury.  They are proven stress relievers, reduce the rate of heart attacks and depression, lower health care costs, strengthen family bonds, and improve productivity.  More vacation time will actually be a boost to our economy. We all pay the price of overwork and stress.  That’s why 137 countries in the world, and all other industrial countries, require them by law.”

Ironically, de Graaf points out, while not a single U.S. state requires paid vacation time, residents of U.S. territories get them.  “If you live in Puerto Rico, you get fifteen days off each year by law,” said de Graaf.  “Washington State should take the lead and become the first state in the United States to have such a law.  It would be a huge boon for Washington’s ailing tourist industry, especially because Washington State residents are more likely to vacation in-state than are residents of most other states.  It would also draw skilled workers to our state and strengthen its reputation as one of America’s most forward-looking states.”

Survey Methodology
Survey results are based on telephone interviews with 500 Washington adults, aged 18 and older, conducted from Feb. 6-7, 2009 by professional voice. All respondents heard the question identically. Respondents are randomly selected Washington State registered voters. Based on the total sample of adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is +/- 4.4 percentage points. Where necessary, responses were weighted according to age, gender, ethnic origin or geographical area to reflect the actual demographic proportions likely to turnout in the 2010 General Election. All surveys contain possible sources of error including interview refusal, question wording, question order and the manner of respondent filtering.

CONTACT:  John de Graaf, [email protected], (206) 443-6747

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