Federal workers: All I want for Christmas … is a long weekend

By Elise Garofalo
Federal News Radio

This holiday season, federal workers are asking Santa for a four-day weekend over Christmas. An employee in Oklahoma launched a petition on WhiteHouse.gov asking President Barack Obama for a day off on Dec. 26. Christmas falls on a Thursday this year, so closing executive departments and agencies on Friday would give workers four consecutive days off.

The petition was posted on the “We the People” section of the White House website, which promises an official response if a petition obtains 100,000 signatures within 30 days.

The petition’s creator wrote that giving federal employees the extra day would boost morale after the pay freezes and unpaid furloughs of recent years. As of Oct. 22, the petition still had 95,000 signatures to go before the Nov. 19 deadline.

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Petition or not, it’s likely that President Obama will follow the tradition of previous years and grant the long weekend.

Federal workers have generally been out of luck when Christmas falls in the middle of the week, but there’s hope when granting one additional day off creates a longer weekend. When Christmas landed on a Tuesday in 2012, President Obama gave workers the Monday off. Federal employees also launched a petition that year, but typically the White House needs no public pressure.

The last two times Dec. 25 fell on a Thursday were under President George W. Bush, and he granted the four-day weekend both times.

The creator of the petition categorizes the request as a family, human rights and labor issue.

Workers in emergency services as well as the Postal Service will likely be exempt from the extra day, if it is given. In the past, those workers have had to use their own vacation days in order to extend their holiday breaks.

The petition says some military bases are closing on Dec. 26, effectively forcing employees to use paid vacation days or leave without pay. Many workers would welcome saving that vacation day for another time or pocketing the extra day’s salary.

Besides giving federal employees a little holiday cheer, a decision by President Obama to close offices on Dec. 26 could have a positive effect on local businesses.

More than 1 million people who would normally be at work might spend the day shopping, seeing movies, dining out or traveling.

Executive orders announcing extra days off usually come in early December.