A lot of federal workers are anxious to let the public know that the Oct. 4 mini-shutdown was not a "holiday" spent shopping or bar-hopping.
Uncle Sam shut down many operations early that day because Congress had failed to approve budgets for agencies to operate. A number of letters to the Monday Morning Quarterback dealt with the subject. Lots of feds complain that the "holiday" label is a media invention and that the congressional goof resulted in an unfair black eye for civil servants.
Here is what some readers had to say about the Oct. 4 shutdown:
"Do you have information on how other governments react in similar situations? Were employes in Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Israel and Mexico ever released early for such a reason?" S.M.D., Washington. (The answer is no: Although several of those governments have been hit by strikes by public employes, none of their parliaments in recent times has failed to meet the payroll on time.)
"Newspapers enjoy writing about the shutdown and the fact that rush hour came early and employes were let out early, but I'd like to point out there were many workers who stayed on the job to continue important functions without a worry as to who, how and when they were to be paid, if they were.
"At Treasury's Computer Services Division . . . about 70 employes and supervisors stayed on the job or came in to cover their late shifts. . . . This is the same crew that covered the 1981 shutdown. . . . Some stayed 24 and 36 hours to operate this center during the Feb. 1982 snow storm. . . . These employes step forward to pick up the slack when Congress fails to get its act together and then go unnoticed. I suppose that all I am trying to do is not let it go unnoticed." W.H. of Washington.
During the shutdown "nonessential" workers were sent home, but "essential" employes had to stay at work. J.W. of Columbia claims he heard this conversation on shutdown day: "One federal worker to the other federal worker: 'Since you work for the Defense Department are you essential, or nonessential?' "
Response: "I'm essential of course . . . unless it snows, then I'm nonessential!"