POSTED: 15 SEPTEMBER 2005 - 7:45am HST

October 24th Is Take Back Your Time Day

free time does not mean time not well spent or wasted

is a major U.S./Canadian initiative to challenge the epidemic of overwork, over-scheduling and time famine that now threatens our health, our families and relationships, our communities and our environment.

October 24th Is Take Back Your Time Day

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE? Are you, or your friends or relatives, working more now but enjoying it less? Does your family's schedule feel like a road race? If so, you're not alone. Millions of Americans are overworked, over-scheduled and just plain stressed out.

• We're putting in longer hours on the job now than we did in the 1950s, despite promises of a coming age of leisure before the year 2000.

• In fact, we're working more than medieval peasants did, and more than the citizens of any other industrial country.

• Mandatory overtime is at near record levels, in spite of a recession.

• On average, we work nearly nine full weeks (350 hours) LONGER per year than our peers in Western Europe do.

• Working Americans average a little over two weeks of vacation per year, while Europeans average five to six weeks. Many of us (including 37% of women earning less than $40,000 per year) get no paid vacation at all.

Contemporary Americans complain of unprecedented levels of busyness in everyday life. They worry about frenetic schedules, hurried children, couples with no time together, families who rarely eat meals together, and an onslaught of "hidden work" from proliferating emails, junk mail, and telemarketing calls. The Girl Scouts recently introduced a "Stress Free" merit badge for today's harried young girls.

While Canadians work somewhat less than Americans do, and enjoy longer vacations and paid family leave, they are also working more now than a generation ago and feeling the pressure of time stress and hurried lifestyles. Many have joined our campaign.


• Time stress threatens our health. It leads to fatigue, accidents and injuries. It reduces time for exercise and encourages consumption of calorie-laden fast foods. Job stress and burnout costs the U.S. economy more than $300 billion a year.

• Time stress threatens our marriages, families and relationships as we find less time for each other, less time to care for our children and elders, less time to just hang out.

• It weakens our communities. We have less time to know our neighbors, supervise our young people, and volunteer.

• It reduces employment as fewer people are hired and then required to work longer hours, or are hired for poor part-time jobs without benefits.

• It leaves many of us with little time to vote, much less be informed, active citizens.

• It leaves us little time for ourselves, for self-development, or for spiritual growth.

• It leads to growing neglect and abuse of pets.

• It even contributes to the destruction of our environment. Studies show that lack of time encourages use of convenience and throwaway items and reduces recycling.

TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY IS NOT ANTI-WORK. Useful and creative work is essential to happiness. But American life has gotten way out of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded obsession of the American economy, while other values -- strong families and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship and social justice, time for nature and the soul -- are increasingly neglected.


Raising Awareness
October 24th, 2003 marked the first Take Back Your Time Day. Events were held in as many as 200 communities in the U.S. and Canada, reaching several thousand people. Hundreds of news stories featured Take Back Your Time Day. A second Take Back Your Time Day was held in 2004.

The campaign won endorsements from labor unions, religious and family organizations and government. Several cities and the governor of Michigan officially proclaimed October 24th as Take Back Your Time Day.
Take Back Your Time Day received expressions of support internationally and was covered in the press in Spain, New Zealand, France, the United Kingdom and Canada. The International Labor Organization in Geneva welcomed Take Back Your time Day's efforts to bring this issue to the forefront in a nation that has notoriously ignored the need for leisure time for working people.

Our model is the first Earth Day, which brought a new environmental awareness to America, leading within two years to the passage of the most significant ecological legislation in our history -- the EPA, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Water Acts.

The main goal of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is to call attention to the problem and begin the public conversation about what to do about it. Some of the solutions will be personal, each in our own lives. Others will be cultural, as we evolve new norms about life balance. Still others will involve voluntary changes in the workplace and children's activity programs, or changes through collective bargaining agreements. We talk about why work/life balance is good for bothemployees and employers; about how to create decent part-time jobs and about solutions for low-income workers who can't afford to work less.
We welcome viewpoints from across the political spectrum. The stance of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY is to let a vigorous public debate begin about a problem we all face.

The movement for a more balanced life began on TAKE BACK YOUR TIME DAY 2003, but it hasn't stopped there. In every community, Take Back Your Timeorganizations will develop campaigns to win personal, cultural, workplace, and political solutions to time famine.

Creating Resources
We have created a web site with over 50 downloadable posters and other resources, published the Take Back Your Time Handbook, and put out an e-mail newsletter.

Taking A Stand! Take Back Your Time has brought together an “It's About Time!” coalition of organizations in support of the following “Time to Care” public policy agenda:

• Guaranteeing paid childbirth leave for all parents. Today, only 40% of Americans are able to take advantage of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

• Guaranteeing at least one week of paid sick leave for all workers. Many Americans work while sick, lowering productivity and endangering other workers.• Guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid annual vacation leave for all workers. Studies show that 28% of all female employees and 37% of women earning less than $40,000 a year receive no paid vacation at all.

• Placing a limit on the amount of compulsory overtime work that an employer can impose, with our goal being to give employees the right to accept or refuse overtime work. 

• Making Election Day a holiday, with the understanding that Americans need time for civic and political participation

• Making it easier for Americans to choose part-time work. Hourly wage parity and protection of promotions and pro-rated benefits for part-time workers.

The TAKE BACK YOUR TIME campaign makes the case that if environmentalists really want to confront over-consumption they must take on the issue of work-sharing, and that by so doing they will also address issues of health, stress, family breakdown, decreased community participation, lack of time for environmental stewardship and similar issues.

I remain amazed by the failure of the sustainability movement to get this simple fact--if we want to stop destructive environmental growth, we must use productivity increases for free time instead of stuff; if we do not begin to share existing work then we are faced with a devil's choice, either lay off thousands of people or continue to grow fast enough to absorb them into the economy. One choice is socially abhorrent and the other environmentally unsustainable - only shorter work hours and work-sharing provides an answer to this dilemma.

for more contact:
John de Graaf Independent Producer and National Coordinator for
Take Back Your Time
401 Mercer Street
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 443-6747


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