President Reagan's decision to give government workers two hours' leave to see yesterday's Redskins victory parade may have scored points here. But he appears to have fumbled in Peoria.
Nonfederal workers here and federal employes outside of the Washington area (who did not get the 2 hour administrative leave) registered their complaints yesterday, calling newspapers, TV stations and the White House switchboard.
A caller from Huntsville, Ala., who identified herself as the widow of a Navy flier told The Washington Post: "What is this man the president thinking? I rooted for the Redskins down here. But my God, he wants to cut my benefits and spending programs and he gives Washington the day off?"
A Washington woman, who said she is a former government employe, said, "This is just too much! My company isn't giving me time off to go to the parade. My son is an engineer and his company isn't giving him time off. What's going on here?"
From Albany, N.Y., a caller who said she worked for the IRS said, "This is just plain unfair. The Washington people get off. We don't. If people care that much about honoring football heroes let them do it on their own time." She admitted to being a Jets fan, but said she would find it "equally inappropriate to give time off" to honor her team.
"This is really bread and circuses stuff," said a caller who said he worked for the Justice Department here. "The president wants to cut our retirement program and freeze our pay. So he gives us two hours off and everything is supposed to be all right. Right? Wrong!"
A worker at the National Institutes of Health said there was confusion in her office whether the two hours of administrative leave included lunch. When it was suggested that she ask her boss, she said: "I'm asking this question for my boss."
One caller said that supervisors in his department (Health and Human Services) said those who took the leave either had to attend the parade or watch it on TV. Technically that is true. But short of requiring employes to bring in a note from John Riggins or Joe Theisman, it would be hard to prove who did what with their time.
An Interior Department official said one of his offices had received a call for an employe on travel status. He wanted to know if he would be paid for an extra two hours because he would have been given the paid time off if he had been here. The answer was no.
The White House press office said that as of early morning (10:30 a.m.) the switchboard had received a "moderate number of calls" on the subject. "Most of them were inquiries, such as, 'Is Alexandria included in the area where leave time is to be granted?' (yes) or 'What about people in Baltimore?' (no)."
"There were a few negative comments" about the decision, an aide said.
Interestingly enough, nobody (as of yesterday morning) had called the White House to thank the president for the time off for the parade.
Several callers to the White House, who said they were federal workers, wanted to know why the mini-holiday for the Redskins when the White House didn't give people time off last month to attend a Public Employe Appreciation Day rally?
Many federal workers called their own agency press or personnel offices with a different complaint. They had heard about the leave on radio or TV, or read it in the paper, but said their supervisors did not have the official word.
That's because the official word went out in the form of a press release from the Office of Personnel Management late Tuesday afternoon after many offices had closed.
If you can draw any conclusions from the above, one of them has got to be that Washington is a very different place from the rest of the United States.
What is good here is bad in the real world, which starts just a few miles beyond the beltway.
President Reagan may have scored a touchdown here in allowing federal workers to participate in an event that, according to pundits and sports writers, has unified this town.
But is seems the folks in Peoria think he should have punted.
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