The U.S. had the fastest wage growth since 2009 in January. But in many other ways, American workers feel like they are working harder to achieve the same result.
Does today feel a bit like yesterday, and the day before that? Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day. In the 1993 movie of the same name, Phil (Murray) wakes up at 6 a.m. only to find out that his day is actually exactly the same as the day before and the day before that. “I think people place too much emphasis on their careers,” he says. There may be a reason why that resonates with people in 2018. “Americans are doomed to relive the same reality each year: Forfeited vacation time, burnout, less time for loved ones, and negative consequences for health and well-being,” according to a report by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off.
More than half of Americans (53%) are burned out and overworked, according to this survey of more than 2,000 workers by Staples Advantage, a division of office supplier Staples Inc. US:SPLS “We found that low pay and more hours is burning employees out and it causes up to half of what employees quit,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of WorkplaceTrends.com, a research and advisory service for the human resources industry, who helped create the Staples survey. Even so, year after year, most Americans say they are one paycheck away from the street with no emergency savings for a car repair or emergency room visit.
One-third of workers don’t take any vacation
Most companies can fire employees for no reason
Today, President Obama’s proposing legislation that would give American workers 7 days a year of paid sick leave. The U.S. remains the world’s only wealthy nation that does not mandate a minimum of paid sick leave, vacation leave or parental leave.
Nationally, nearly 4-in-10 private sector workers — 39 percent — do not have access to any sick leave at all. Zero. Zilch. None. According to Betsey Stevenson of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, that amounts to 43.5 million workers who may be compelled by financial reasons to come into the office when they’re sniffling, sneezing, barfing, and generally feeling under the weather, making the rest of us ill in the process.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that access to paid sick leave varies considerably by occupation. 88 percent of private sector managers and financial workers have access to paid leave, more than double the rate among service workers (40 percent) and construction workers (38 percent).
The ink is barely dry on a trillion-dollar tax cut for multinational corporations, and one of its largest beneficiaries is already looking for more. Earlier this month, Bank of America announced it would be applying a $12 monthly surcharge for e-banking, a policy that disproportionately affects its poorest customers. For lower-income earners, it’s merely the latest reminder that trickle-down economics don’t really trickle down, and that being poor can be extraordinarily expensive.
E-banking at BOA had been free provided customers didn’t use tellers and agreed to receive their monthly statements online. But effective Jan. 19, 2018, clients will have to either maintain a minimum balance of at least $1500, or receive monthly direct deposits of $250 or more to avoid a fee. According to a private report by Goldman Sachs, BOA enjoyed a $21 billion profit last year and will be paying an estimated $3.5 billion less in taxes in 2018 thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the U.S.’ corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent.
The too-big-to-fail bank’s greed has sparked outrage. As of January 28, a Change.org petition opposing the surcharge had received more than 115,000 signatures. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, has warned that BOA’s actions will discourage the poor from maintaining traditional bank accounts. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation reports that 7 percent of U.S. households were unbanked in 2015, and alternatives for the poor can often prove even more costly.
In an official statement on the BOA fee, Clarke asserted, “Poor people who are denied access to traditional bank services are left vulnerable to costly check-cashing outlets, pawnshops and other predatory services. By pushing poor people into the dark world of alternative financial services characterized by higher fees and exorbitant interest rates, low-income communities are at risk of being thrust into further economic distress.”