Some farsighted federal workers have already begun to focus on the New Year's Day 2000 holiday.

Because of the way the calendar works out, the first holiday of the new year will be celebrated for pay and leave purposes on the final day -- a Friday -- of the old year.

The paid day off for most civil servants will be Dec. 31. But several callers have said they and their colleagues would be willing to take an extra day off (with pay) on Monday, Jan. 3.

This supreme sacrifice -- staying home an extra day -- would give Uncle Sam time to iron out any problems that might occur if government computers confuse the year 2000 with the year 1900. As some federal workers have pointed out, it also would be easier for the city to deal with any computer-related transportation or power problems if most of the federal work force stayed home.

For whatever reason, many would gladly stay home if asked.

That sort of wishful thinking has given birth to yet another millennium myth, which is just starting to make the rounds of federal agencies. The wouldn't-it-be-lovely concept: Uncle Sam may give nonessential workers the day off on both the Friday before and the Monday after New Year's Day. Don't hold your breath.

It's a great rumor -- with some logic behind it -- but false.

So don't count on a four-day weekend around New Year's Day unless you take vacation or are, er, sick.

Federal agencies are working hard to make sure there are no Y2K computer problems, and officials say a bonus holiday isn't being contemplated. Monday, Jan. 3, will be business as usual (they hope) for Uncle Sam.

In fact, being designated a key man or woman for Y2K may become the next status symbol in government and industry. Many agencies have informed or will inform key personnel to be on hand during the 1999-to-2000 weekend -- just in case.

Because the New Year's Day 2000 holiday will yield a day off on the preceding Friday, 1999 will be one of the best ever in terms of federal holidays.

All but two of this year's federal holidays fall on or will be celebrated on (for pay and leave purposes) a Friday or a Monday. The list includes New Year's Day 1999, Christmas 1999 and New Year's Day 2000.

Most federal workers also got the day off on these Mondays: Jan. 18 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Feb. 15 (George Washington's Birthday holiday) and, just this week, May 31 (Memorial Day).

The year's remaining Monday holidays are Independence Day (observed July 5 for pay and leave purposes), Labor Day (Sept. 6) and Columbus Day (Oct. 11). Veterans Day will be celebrated on Thursday, Nov. 11, the traditional date of Armistice Day. Thanksgiving, always on a Thursday, is Nov. 25.

Telecommuting Centers

The Treasury, Postal Service, general government appropriations bill in the House contains $1.9 million, courtesy of Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), to fund 17 Washington area federal telecommuting centers in the coming fiscal year. Wolf is an advocate of the centers, which provide facilities for feds who want to work closer to home.

APWU's Finest

The American Postal Workers Union is giving a send-off party today for Mary Hileman. She's been with APWU for 35 years. Union presidents come and go. But those who know the outfit know that more often than not, Hileman ran the place and called the shots.

Go West, West

The National Association of Government Employees wants Togo D. West Jr., secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, to resign. It contends that he has "refused to champion" programs veterans need. VA brass say West has done his best at a time of agency downsizing. The agency has asked Congress to let it offer buyouts to longtime employees. Insiders say West is popular with the White House; hence, it is too soon to send him a farewell card.

Postal Picket Line

Members of the National Association of Letter Carriers hope to surround many post offices on Wednesday with picket lines. The off-duty carriers will protest what they say is management's failure to bargain in good faith over a new contract.

Many members of other AFL-CIO unions are expected to join the shoe-leather showdown.

NALC national officers will return to their home locals to picket post offices where most of them once worked. Union President Vincent R. Sombrotto will be in New York City leading protesters at the James A. Farley Post Office in downtown Manhattan. In Cleveland (a good union town), the union will use an hour of radio drive time to explain what the protest is all about.

Mike Causey's e-mail address is causeym@washpost.com

Thursday, June 3, 1999