It’s summer. The warm sun means you can put on shorts, pack your stuff and head off for a stretch at the beach, in the woods or at a resort hotel or maybe plan to have your cake and eat it too in a European café.

Or can you?

Vacations are vanishing in the United States. One in four American workers get no paid vacation at all. Nearly half don’t take even a solid week off. The average vacation in the U.S. is now only a long weekend.

In most industrial countries people get five or six weeks off. The absolute minimum allowed by law anywhere in Europe is 20 days of paid vacation after the first year on the job.

Vacations are as important to health as checking cholesterol or getting exercise. Research shows that an annual vacation can cut the risk of death from heart disease in women by 50 percent and in men by 32 percent.

Driven by their push for ever-fatter profits, U.S. companies are engaged in a drive to further reduce vacation days and other paid time off.

We support the “Take Back Your Time” campaign, which has called for Congress to enact national legislation guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid vacation for all American workers. Passage of such a law would end the shameful situation in which the United States is the only industrial nation that fails to legally guarantee the right to a paid vacation. While they are at it, our legislators should add guarantees for paid time off for sick leave and for childbirth. We’re also the only industrial nation that doesn’t guarantee these.

With his innumerable vacations at his ranch, including the one he took as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast and killed thousands, President Bush knows the value of time off. He should have no trouble signing the bill when it comes across his desk. (Unless he’s on vacation at the time.)

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