This article notes how one member of Congress, Alan Grayson (D-FL), has proposed a bill that would make businesses with 100 or more employees provide a week of paid vacation to employees who have worked for them at least one year. In theory, everyone getting at least one paid vacation per year sounds like a great and novel idea. Who wouldn’t want to be paid not to work for a week every now and then? The controversial part obviously comes when government requires it.
Putting aside the issue that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause would have to be stretched too far to justify such a law, dubbed the “Paid Vacation Act of 2009,” one interesting part of this story is that Grayson referred to a paid vacation as potentially a “right”:
Why are paid vacations good enough for the Chinese, French, Japanese, and German employees, but not good enough for us? In other countries, its a matter of right (emphasis added). Everyone is entitled to it. In our country, it is a matter of class,” Grayson wrote in a release.
“Over time we are coming to realize that whatever your background, wherever you grew up, wherever you live, there are certain basic elements that people need to have enjoyable lives. They need health care. They need a decent paying job. And for a good life, they need time off,” he added.
Apparently he espouses a belief in so-called “positive” rights: rights which typically require action on the part of others in order for them to be realized. In layman’s terms, it means that someone else has to pay in order for you to have your “right” to a paid vacation. Other examples of positive rights would include education, health care and a minimum wage. They all require time and/or money invested by another person. Basically, it requires another person to give up their right to property and/or liberty in order for you to acquire your supposed “right.” That’s the reason such positive “rights” are questionable.
When government mandates companies to provide paid vacations to their employees, that is money out of the company’s pocket. And it’s a given that the company will not take that financial hit themselves. The money lost will be reflected in either lower pay or diminished benefits to the employees. It may even lead the company to hire less people in order to make up the cost difference.
Congress loves sticking it to big business. While Grayson’s belief that such a law would help employees have a “good life” and bolster the tourism industry in the state is commendable, it is ill-conceived not only because it would be unconstitutional, but also because it would have several unintended consequences.