Last week a Bethesda woman, initials N.M., wrote the Monday Morning Quarterback to remind our town's 347,000 federal workers that a "government holiday" (such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday) is often just another workday for non-civil servants.
She asked feds to think about the people who operate stores, service stations and other services while civil servants are on holiday. Postal revenues -- judging from the mail response she triggered -- must be up.
This is what some federal workers had to say about their holiday schedule:
"I feel someone ought to advise Ms. N.M. of Bethesda that a government holiday is not necessarily a holiday for government workers. Last year, I worked July 4, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and New Year's Day without overtime or compensatory time off.
"This letter isn't intended to be a 'sour grapes' letter because I happen to like my job. If N.M.'s company doesn't give all holidays off, she should quit and find one that does. Nothing is forcing her to stay on the job, except maybe the bank, her husband or the fact that she has only five years until retirement. By the way, I wrote this letter right before I left for work on the Martin Luther King 'holiday.' " M.T., Washington
"Many nonfederal employes share N.M.'s feeling that federal employes are placed in some sort of preferred class because we have holidays not shared by the working public in general. I can understand this feeling . . . .
"But there is another side to the story. Government employes didn't choose to have the holidays. We were told they would be holidays by politicians . . . who treat the holidays as a substitute for a pay scale that lags behind the private sector. I'd gladly work on those holidays like everyone else and trade them for a pay system that is fair and free from political manipulation. Most holidays occur when the weather isn't ideal, or at inconvenient times when my work schedule requires me to meet a deadline and I spend my holidays working at home anyhow. So who needs this grief?" J.A.E., Alexandria
"N.M.'s letter maintains that government workers have more holidays than private sector workers. Other than those examples (Martin Luther King's birthday, Columbus Day and Veterans Day), the letter presents no factual statistics on the number of days private workers get off compared to federal workers.
" . . . Several of my friends, including my uncles who aren't federal workers, have days off that federal employes do not receive. Days like the Friday after Thanksgiving, Easter, a couple of days during deer-hunting season, and a day of their choice. Government employes receive 10 paid holidays and do not have any say on which days they will be.
"What is missing from N.M.'s letter is hard facts. How many days off do large corporations . . . give their employes?" L.C., Chantilly High School
"Why shouldn't government workers be aware of the fact that 'government' holidays aren't holidays for everyone? They aren't holidays for firefighters, federal agents, air traffic controllers, maintenance workers, embassy desk officers and others who have essential tasks.
"Many of us in 'administrative' positions put in long hours. My last whole day off was Christmas, and I don't remember the last time I worked less than 12 hours a day. I won't be paid for my overtime . . . only compensatory leave for a small portion of that time because of an arbitrary ceiling on federal overtime pay. Is N.M. aware of that?" H.M., Fairfax
More to come!