phone in sick on May 1 (or May 2)

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Wed Apr 26 09:43:49 PDT 2000


RTMARK DECLARES MAY 1 AN AMERICAN HOLIDAY May 2 elsewhere; holiday to protest corporate erosion of leisure

Mayday info, Phone In Sick Day press, Andrei Codrescu clips:,;

contact mailto:sick at

Decadent Action:;

contact mailto:decadent at

RTMark, a U.S.-based corporation whose "bottom line" is cultural profit, has acquired the three-year-old Phone In Sick Day from the Europe-based Decadent Action group.

The holiday comes with an impressive track record: it was considered responsible for the "sickouts" of 2000 British Airways employees in 1997, and of thousands of Irish policemen in 1998.

Until this year, Phone In Sick Day was observed on April 6, the start of the U.K. financial year. At the urging of its largest investors, RTMark has moved the date to May 1 (May 2 outside the U.S. and Canada) for three important reasons:

1. To bring an important American holiday back home.

Mayday commemorates ten Americans who lost their lives fighting for the eight-hour day, and their sacrifice has been celebrated since 1889 nearly everywhere in the world *except* America. As the U.S. is RTMark's primary market, RTMark wishes to help rectify this imbalance. (See for more history.)

2. To call attention to the loss of the eight-hour day and other quality-of-life indices in America.

Mayday heralds the approach of summer, a time that still means "vacation" to those in most First-World nations. But substantial vacations, like the eight-hour day, have passed into American leisure history. While the average number of hours worked per year has gone down throughout the First World, it has gone up in America, with Americans now working six weeks more per year than they did in 1973 to achieve the same standard of living. Phoning in sick en masse will function as a "mayday" distress call by increasingly harried Americans. (Visit to see Andrei Codrescu explain this most eloquently.)

3. To call attention to the dwindling quality of life everywhere.

The erosion of leisure is no longer limited to America. As European countries are increasingly forced to dismantle social programs and adopt American-style measures to benefit corporate health, we can be sure that they will all go the way of the United States: two-month vacations will shrink to two weeks, maternity leave will go from six months to five days, etc. Therefore RTMark encourages Europeans, and other First Worlders for whom May 1 is already a holiday, to phone in sick on May 2. (In the Third World, of course, the effects of neoliberalism are unspeakably worse than a mere erosion of leisure; it would be tasteless to suggest that phoning in sick might accomplish anything there.)

RTMark's primary goal is to publicize corporate attacks on the public welfare. To this end it acts as a clearinghouse for anti- corporate sabotage projects. RTMark's Phone In Sick Day takeover bid was accepted by Decadent Action in part because of RTMark's greater rights as a U.S. corporation, which permits it to pursue profit with fewer legal hindrances than anywhere else. As Decadent Action spokesperson Kitty Banks says, "We are pleased with the handover to RTMark, who are in a better legal and geographical position to take the event to a global audience."

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