No Union = No Vacation

November 12, 2004

I have worked for over twenty-one years as a professional in the information technology field. Two times, earlier in my career I was faced with being in a union or labor bargaining unit as a programmer. Both times I resisted because I had bought into the media myth about unions. Today I am ruing the lack of representation I have with my employer.

My present engagement has me working as an employee for a small consulting services company. The company provides 7 paid holidays and 10 paid vacation days per year. Far from generous and unfortunately typical in today's marketplace. The client where I am assigned observes 11 holidays annually. I am not allowed to work on their holidays, and I can't work at the home office those days either. In some cases we have been allowed to work some overtime the week of the holiday to compensate, but recent budget shortfalls have ended that practice. I am have to take a "vacation" day to cover the 4 holidays my company doesn't give me.

So I really get 6 vacation days that I can use at my discretion. Well actually 2. You see the client shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Year's so there's another 4 days of "vacation" spent.

Labor unions fought for, and died for, worker rights in this country. We all benefited from better working conditions, health care, retirement pensions, and yes, paid vacations. The media and the corporate interests in the United States have convinced everyone that unions are somehow bad, that they are somehow hurting our economy. Slowly the protections and gains won by the unions in the last century are being eroded.

After twenty-one years of work I have no pension, no retirement, minimal health care that doesn't even cover a root canal, and only 2 discretionary vacation days each year. The land of opportunity has become the land of opportunists who willingly sell the rest of us down the river to make a few more cents dividend on the next quarterly report.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.