Another Federal Holiday
by James Glaser
February 18, 2008

If you own your own business or you work for a business, you will probably be working today, but if you "work for the people" as a federal employee, or even a State or County or City employee, then you have a three day weekend, and a paid holiday on Monday. (President's Day) It is kind of sad the American workers for the most part have to work on national holidays, but most government workers do not. Of course we now know that federal holidays have been changed around from their original intent, to just a way to give government employees another three day weekend.

In 1968, legislation (HR 15951) was enacted that affected several federal holidays. One of these was Washington's Birthday, the observation of which was shifted to the third Monday in February each year whether or not it fell on the 22nd. This act, which took effect in 1971, was designed to simplify the yearly calendar of holidays and give federal employees some standard three-day weekends in the process.

Actually, the reason for holidays today is even sadder than giving government employees a three day weekend. The real reason we have holidays today is not to celebrate things like the birth of Jesus Christ, or to remember the veterans who gave their lives for our country. No, the real reason is to give us big shopping days. As Wikipedia explains:

Today, the February holiday has become well-known for being a day in which many stores hold sales. Until the late 1980s, corporate businesses were universally closed on this day, the way they are on (for example) Memorial Day or Christmas Day. With the late 1980s advertising push to rename the holiday, more and more businesses are staying open on the holiday each year, and, as on Veterans Day and Colunbus Day, most delivery services outside of the Post Office now offer regular service on the day as well. Some public transit systems have also gone to regular schedules on the day. Various theories exist for this, one accepted reason being to make up for the growing trend of corporations to close in observance of the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. However, when reviewing the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill debate of 1968 in the Congressional Record, one notes that supporters of the Bill were intent on moving federal holidays to Mondays to promote business. Over time, as with many federal holidays, few Americans actually celebrate Presidents Day, and it is mainly known as a day off from work or school, although most non-governmental workers do not get the day off.

Holidays are nice, if you are given the time and the pay to celebrate them, but more and more Americans work on holidays. In fact more and more Americans work longer and longer hours. Here is what the Pittsburg Tribune found out:

Americans are putting in more hours at work, about 42.5 hours in 2006, compared to about 37.5 hours in 2003, according to time-use surveys by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. The extra hours are a result of fewer employees to do work, fears of job security, a need for overtime pay and a hope for advancement, experts say.

Drawbacks include burnout, and an impact on health and quality of life.

Quality of life isn't just about the number of hours you work, but also what you get paid for those hours. It is widely reported that hourly workers had more buying power with their pay check back in 1973, compared with what a worker takes home today. Now that is pay for the working stiff. Better known as the hourly employee. Those at the top are doing much, much better.

CEO Pay Up 298%, Average Worker's? 4.3% (1995-2005)

Careers & Jobs — There's been a lot of ballyhoo lately about ballooning executive pay, so here's a look at how CEO incomes rose over the years in relation to Joe Blow's paycheck. It looks like while CEO pay rose 298.2% by 2005, and corporate profits by 106.7%, the average worker pay has only risen by 4.3%

Tags: Executive Pay, CEO Income

Many at the top have to work holidays too, but if your pay is going up by leaps and bounds every year, I can only imagine that time off is a bit more fruitfull, too. I would like to see a report of how many senior management people are working a second job just to make ends meet.

Like I said, holidays are nice, they give you that day to catch up on so many things you doin't have time for. A day with the kids, a day to repair the roof, or maybe just a day to sit around and do nothing. Most workers don't get that holiday off any more, nor do that get that free day with pay. That is becoming a thing of the past.

As workers put in longer and longer hours just to get by, and as they watch those at the top get more and more money, America becomes two countries. The "Haves" and the "Have Nots." Like every country that ended up with a revolution, there are way more "Have Nots" than there are "Haves." I don't know when America will have its second revolution, but I do know that many workers are spending a big chunk of their money on the gas needed to get to work.

At the current gas price level ($2.81) and average fuel economy of 17.8 miles/gallon, average American workers, who earn the national average salary of $40,409, spend 3.3 percent of their paychecks ($1,341 per year) on gas needed to commute to and from work. "And that's the average worker," says Bill Coleman, Senior VP of Compensation at

So, for a person working for minimum wage, that means they are spending about 10% on gas. Now these numbers for both workers are just for their commute. There is also maintenance and repair, and the car payment itself. And people at the top wonder why workers keep crying for more pay?

Holidays give some people the day to sit and think. Maybe it is a good thing that most workers don't get that day off, because if they have the time to think about how things are going, we might not have holidays for anyone anymore.

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