Let’s Take Everyday Off   12 comments

May 4th is the unofficial Star Wars Day. (May the Fourth be with you.) What other days should be recognized as holidays but aren’t?

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It’s also my father-in-law’s 80th birthday!

Productivity Loss

I like paid time off as much as the next person and I am aware that the United States only has five federal holidays compared to other countries that have many more. But I’m skeptical of holidays. It causes a loss of productivity and, where I work, it makes payroll processing late since most holidays occur on the first Monday of the month when we are all supposed to be handing in our timesheets. The poor administrative assistants are expected to process timesheets late when half the employees haven’t come back from the holiday yet and, of course, didn’t hand in their timesheets before they left. Meanwhile, Payroll is banging the drum of “hurry, hurry, hurry, you’re late, late, late.”

Maybe we need a Day-After-the-Day-After-the-Holiday holiday to recover from the administrative hangover caused by the holiday.

Of course, if you look at some calendars there are a lot of designated days honoring something. Recently it was Administrative Professionals Day (which in the time of CVD19) meant nothing but you got nice emails from people who are usually appreciative of your efforts).

Susan_B_Anthony
Susan B. Anthony

History

Adding a new federal holiday faces severe hurdles. One of the losing arguments made against the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday was the extra cost to the federal budget. One King holiday opponent in 1983 estimated $225 million in lost productivity annually from adding an extra holiday. That’s just the federal government. State and local governments lose even more productivity and there are also private market impacts. Meanwhile, the kids sit at home and learn nothing about MLK Jr., so the whole point of the holiday is lost anyway.

In the US federal holidays just specify when paid holidays are given to federal employees in what are considered non-essential positions and the holidays are part of collective bargaining agreements. Adding or dropping a holiday for federal employees affects those agreements.

Congress hasn’t changed the federal holiday schedule since 1983, but here are some holidays proposed to legislators and the public at large for consideration:

  • Some people would like to make Election Day a November federal holiday and 11 states recognize as such. It doesn’t seem to improve turnout at the polls.
  • There was a proposal to celebrate the achievements of Susan B. Anthony as the Presidents’ Day holiday. The proposed bill didn’t make it out of the 100th Congress.
  • A third proposal was to designate a federal holiday each year as “Cesar E. Chavez Day.” The idea was put forth several times in Congress with little impact. Americans still know that Che Guevara was a mass murderer and are not ready to celebrate the accomplishments of a great admirer of his.
  • Each year, 13 states recognize Christmas Eve as a holiday for state employees and 23 states recognize the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday.

Alaska recognizes Seward’s Day (celebrating the territory’s purchase from the Russia) and Alaska Day (celebrating statehood). Other states have their own specific holidays.

I worked for community behavioral health for many years and for nine of those years, we leased a floor from the local Native Corporate — Tanana Chiefs Conference. They had a lot of holidays. They celebrated Chief Peter Johns birthday, for example. I know, you’ve never heard of him. He was a cool elder guy and definitely deserved to have his birthday commemorated, but there were at least three other holidays for TCC that the rest of the world doesn’t celebrate. And they would forget, if we didn’t remind their security office, that Behavioral Health wasn’t closed. We’d show up to find the doors locked and we’d have to stand around in the parking lot for someone to open the building for us. Imagine having to do case management with a paranoid schizophrenic in the parking lot while their illness spins up conspiracy theories of why the building is closed.

One time, while standing in the parking lot, I had an idea. Why are government offices closed when the people have time to actually utilize the monopolistic services the government requires them to use? Hmm ….

So the State of Alaska has 11 holidays. Some are federal, some are State. We also have commemorative days that we don’t take off, but we do acknowledge. I think that’s plenty. I typically take leave the day after Thanksgiving just because I like the day off. We also celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (because my mother was born Christmas Day) and so I take leave for that. We get a lot of leave where I work so that isn’t a difficulty for me. My husband is a construction worker, so he gets no paid leave. Usually the construction site is closed for 3 of the 5 federal holidays that fall in the summer (he usually got winter off just because of the extreme weather here makes construction hard) and he made no money on those days, which could be a problem for some people’s budgets.

You might be able to guess that I’m not a huge fan of holidays. Yes, I like paid time off and there are some personal “holidays” I care so much about that I take leave for them. But I recognize the productivity drain entailed and I don’t think most people use the “holidays” the way they were intended. It’s usually just a great reason to extend a weekend — which is fine — but I wouldn’t add more at the federal level. If states want to add more, that’s their option. And I think the commemorative days are cool.

Are you familiar with Pi Day? I work with engineers and this is a big deal for them. I don’t think they’d like to take it off, however, because we have a big “pie social” on that day. It was March 14 this year (a Saturday) so that Friday, it was scheduled. *When the management canceled it because of CVD19, some of the engineers retired to a local cafe to celebrate Pi Day with pie. I saw their time sheets – they took leave. It’s a “holiday” for them and they weren’t going to miss it, but it wouldn’t be any fun if they spent it at home.

*There were no confirmed cases of CVD19 from that gathering. Alaska hadn’t had an official case until a week later.

This idea that we all take time off at the same time just strikes me as weird in a country that prides itself on individualism. Yeah, some holidays should be official — the big ones most of us celebrate — but I suspect if we took a vote on all the proposed holidays, we’d quickly find we’d not be the office much. At some point, we’d be taking every day off. Oh, wait ….

Is the concept of holidays even viable when we’re all teleworking? We had a holiday since we’ve been in lock down and it didn’t feel like a day off because I’m in my “office” all the time now.

Just an observation from the Alaska Hunker Down. I wonder what my fellow writers think on this subject.

Posted May 4, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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12 responses to “Let’s Take Everyday Off

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  1. I agree with you, Lela. South Africa has far to many public holidays. We had Easter with two days off (Friday and Monday), the 21st of March is also a holiday here, I don’t even know why. Last week Monday and Friday were both holidays. It is completely unproductive as most people take the whole week off. For a poor country like South Africa, I think it is ridiculous. Most companies here also close for at least three weeks over the Christmas period. I think the US ideas on things are better and that is why your economy is so huge.

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    • I think you might be onto something there, though I think the State of Alaska has too many holidays. Almost every time we have a holiday, a member of the public leaves a message on my office phone asking a question or complaining about something. I always call them back and about 50% of the time, they say “You know, I was trying to get to work yesterday and I really resented that there was no one available to address my problem at your office.” I agree with them. We have a monopoly on the upkeep of the roads and the public has a right to expect someone to answer their concerns really 365 days out of the year. They are our ultimate employers.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In your particular job and circumstances, I agree that someone should be available to assist people when needed. It is that sort of job, but you, of course, are an employee and it is the employer who sets the rules.

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  2. We have 8 public holidays this year, so you have more! We have one coming up on Friday this week to celebrate May Day and VE Day. Thanks for this post, Lela. By reading it I learned about Susan B. Anthony.

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    • Yeah, heroine of the Women’s Voting Rights movement. For most workers in the US, these holidays are not paid days, so it’s really digging a hole for them because they lose 1/5th of their income for a given week. Of course, a lot of private sector service companies don’t close for the holidays – Walmart closes Christmas Day, that’s about it, which is good for the workers who want to work.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She was brave enough to ask for equal pay all those years ago. Some hope though. We’re still asking for it now!

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      • I don’t know the situation in England, but here in the US, if you factor for the time that women take off to raise kids and that we tend to take jobs that are traditionally lower paid, the gap between men’s pay and women’s pay is 8%. And that’s likely to be closed this generation as women are snapping up the STEM jobs that men used to be a strong majority in. There’s a meeting I’m in every week that has all the managers where I work. It’s 50/50 women and because of my job, I know how much they make. It’s pretty close to equal. I pull the female average down because they don’t pay administrators what they pay engineers, but all the other women in the meeting are paid equal to their male counterparts, assuming they’ve been on the job for the same amount of time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s good. It’s not so equal here, but better than it was I think.

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  3. But I look at it from the other side. Having the occasional extra day off can increase productivity, because employees come back to work a little less stressed and ready to dig in and get to work.

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    • I don’t see any actual evidence for that. Back when I worked in the private-sector, that may have been true for some workers (especially the ones for whom the holiday was an unpaid day), but here in the State of Alaska DOT, workers start talking about their fun plans on Thursday and then they take Friday as leave. They drag into work late on Tuesday and then talk all day about what they did over the weekend. The only ones working furiously are the poor administrative assistants processing timesheets a day late, trying to extract the required timesheets from workers who really haven’t come back from vacation yet. I suspect that’s why the Congressional Budget office found a huge loss in productivity when they looked into the MLK Jr. holiday. The work ethic in private companies may be quite different from government offices. I know my husband and his construction coworkers were always eager to make up that lost day of wages by working overtime for three of the four remaining days.

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  4. I used to work shifts and invariably ended up on duty for most public holidays. The advantage was that the roads were empty on my days off. 🙂

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