“Have a beer on us, state workers!” — Massachusetts working stiffs

( - promoted by Bob Neer)

Once upon a time, in a magical kingdom called Massachusetts, the government decided that everyone who worked in the castle was special and, therefore, deserved special holidays. The villagers who worked in the valley far below still had to get up with the dawn, leave their homes, and go to work, just as they always did. Taxes, of course, had to be paid: running the castle was expensive, you see, and … (please continue in the comments).

Republican Senator Michael Knapik, who has filed a bill to repeal Evacuation and Bunker Hill days, is right about this:

“It’s not about the history; it’s about a rip-off of the taxpayers.”

A Wicked Local reporter actually managed to penetrate the castle, and filed this report last week:

Abolish Bunker Hill Day And Evacuation Day Holidays (S 1735) The Judiciary Committee’s hearing on a proposal to abolish the Evacuation Day (March 17) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17) holidays became heated at times.

The Statehouse and other state and local government buildings in only Boston, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are officially closed each year on both dates. Thousands of local and state workers in those communities are given the two days off. Thousands of other state employees in all other cities and towns across the state are allowed to take the two days off or use them as “floating holidays” – a procedure under which they can take off two days of their choice during the year.

Supporters of abolishing the holidays say that eliminating the two holidays would save an estimated $5 million and would be a very important pro-taxpayer, symbolic move during a time when the state is drowning in debt and thousands of citizens have lost their jobs and houses.

Legislators who champion the holidays say that Bunker Hill Day commemorates the important Battle of Bunker Hill while Evacuation Day celebrates a key victory for the colonies as General George Washington and his troops drove the British out of Boston.

Either everyone should get these two days off, or no one should. Giving a special holiday to state workers when everyone else goes to work suggests a cynically halfhearted attitude toward these important historical anniversaries and, more generally, a failure of democracy.

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57 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. You want the day off too?

    go get a job with the State.

  2. I was wondering what took you so long Bob

    I knew this post was coming... just thought it might happen yesterday.

    Either everyone should get these two days off, or no one should

    What cities do is up to each city.  As far as state employees, everyone* gets the same number of days off... the only issue is that those not in B/C/R/W get to choose which days (they're effectively vacation days), whereas those in B/C/R/W don't get any flexibility.

    What I don't understand is: how would eliminating the days off save money?  Either you remove two days off from all workers, or you convert these two closings to floating days.  If you do the former, sure you save money -- but you'd save money if you cut everybody's salary by 10% or reduced their pension by 20% or sliced 4 vacation days from everybody's yearly total.  Assuming the employees don't just give up part of their salary+bennies for nutin', where does the savings come from?

    * meaning state employees in B/C/R/W don't have more or fewer days off per year because their building is located in B/C/R/W.

    • Overtime...

      ...for the workers like police, fire, & nurses who do have to work that day. Plus, since the overtime is factored in pensions we have to pay basically 80% of the difference between two days OT and two days regular pay for every year of retirement for each worker whom this effects.  That adds up fast.

      Also, if you think that the work done in a government office on a given day has value, that value is lost as well.

      • Government work has a lot of value

        Just go to a country without a working government, like Somalia, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan, or even to places in the United States that don't invest much money in their governments, and see how relatively poor and unsuccessful they are as places to live.

        In any event, we agree this is an expensive holiday, among other things.

        • Agreed...

          ...though putting an exact dollar figure on what that value is would not be a simple task and somewhat subjective.  The "if" I used was only because of the unfortunately widespread idea that government work has no value, and the notion that shutting much of the government for these two days has no $$$ cost really risks feeding into that.    

          • I'm not arguing against the value of government

            I'm merely point out that this is a paid holiday, like any other paid holiday a government employee gets each year, be it a fixed national holiday like July 4th, a fixed religious-based holiday like Christmas, or a vacation day taken on the employee's day of choice.  If the argument is that government employees get 1 (or 2) too many paid holidays off per year (and that these are the least important holidays), that's one thing.  That's not the argument I'm reading though.  Am I wrong?

            I agree that the employees are providing value -- do you agree that if they lost the day off that we'd also end up paying them more total salary, since we'd be asking them to work 8 (or 16) more hours per year?  So, where are the savings?  Taking away this holiday would cost roughly 0.4% salary per employee (1/250th of the year).  Converting it to a floating holiday would save on some OT, but would also prevent the building from being closed for the day, which does have some savings in and of itself.

            I guess I just don't understand why this holiday ought to be eliminated.  Is it that the holiday isn't important enough?  Is it that gov't employees are overcompensated and removing this day off would bring their total compensation more in line with some market value?  Would you propose to (a) convert the four cities to two floating holidays instead of the two fixed holidays, (b) make the holidays state-wide in the name of fairness, (c) eliminate not just the holiday from the work calendar, but remove those two days off from all state workers and compensate them the roughly 0.8% additional salary for the roughly 0.8% more work time, or (d) eliminate not just the holiday from the work calendar, but remove those two days off from all state workers and compensate them nothing for the added work?

            I'm just not really sure what exactly folks are proposing be changed.

            • Too Many Holidays

              government employees get 1 (or 2) too many paid holidays off per year (and that these are the least important holidays), that's one thing.  That's not the argument I'm reading though.  Am I wrong?

              Stomv, I think this is exactly the argument--government employees in Suffolk County get 2 too many paid holidays off per year, and these are the least important holidays. Now, I'm sure that these holidays have been negotiated by the public employees' unions as part of the collective bargaining process. But as I have suggested before, I think that negotiations between the public employees' unions and the state are subject to perverse incentives that, in this case, make it not unreasonable to say that the public employees ought to give up the two days without demanding a concession in return. Not that I expect this to happen.


              • 2 too many, when compared to whom?

                State employees are treated the same*.  Do muni employees in Newton get the same number of paid days off as those in Pittsfield?  Do they get the same number as those working in Home Depot?  As those working for Genzyme?

                If government employees in Suffolk County no longer got Evacuation and Bunker Hill days off but instead got two more paid vacation days, would you be arguing that they get 2 too many paid holidays off per year?

                * which is to say, the location of their place of employment has no impact on the number of days off, though it can impact when those days are available

            • Personally...

              ...my primary objection is not the $$$, but more that it is a very conspicuous special perk for a few that directly inconveniences a lot of the people who don't get it and because it is so conspicuous and such a nuisance to to many it is Exhibit A when people want to make the case that government works in this state is a joke.  It does also cost some money, though I'll concede that the exact amount is highly debatable and possibly not huge.

              If it was entirely up to me, I would eliminate Bunker Hill day (letting people keep a vaca day) and make March 17 a full fledged state holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, July 4.  However, I would also dump this Evacuation Day BS and just call it St. Patrick's Day- which is what it really is.  I think the most likely path is either the status quo or getting rid of them and letting workers keep the vaca days in their contracts.  Between those two choices, I would pick ending the special holidays for only public workers in only Suffolk County.    

              • I'm so confused.

                Your proposal doesn't change the number of days off for anyone, presuming that when you make Mar 17 a holiday you take back one of the two floating holidays awarded to non-Suffolk employees.

                Suffolk and non-Suffolk employees currently get the same number of days off.  Your proposal would maintain the number that they both get off.  It would convert one fixed day off for Suffolk workers to a floating day, and it would convert one floating day for non-Suffolk workers to a fixed day (Mar 17).

                The end result is the same compensation package for all employees as they have now, but that state gov't offices in Suffolk county would be open for regular business one more day each year, and state gov't offices in non-Suffolk county would be closed to the public one more day each year.

                This is what people really get upset about?  I mean, this is such Lilliputian stuff -- it results in virtually no net change in employment policy, government services, revenue, or expenditures.

                I just don't see what the big deal is...

                • Optics

                  I think you are probably correct that the lost work time isn't that big a deal and isn't saved by converting to a floating holiday.  But it surely saves the time-and-a-half earned by all the folks who do work on March 17, and that number is likely not insignificant.

                  The real issue is optics, and floating holidays would avoid the circumstance of an obvious, conspicuous, giant--and so obviously contrived-- freebie tossed to state employees.  The floating days are less noticeable because most people come to work.

                  • So what, the Herald drives policy now?

                    I hear you on the 1.5 time.  The flip side is that when everybody has the day off, the lights stay off.  The heat/cooling is ramped back for the day.  The computers are off, etc.  There is some savings to having everyone off.

                    Furthermore, for those hourly workers (or OT at 40+ or 8+), floating holidays also create OT needs.  As a simple example, if you need 4 firefighters to staff a piece of equipment and 1 is on vacation, you're paying OT to others to cover the shift.  Happens all the time, and it's impact on local budgets ebbs and flows as the chief allows or cracks down on the situation.

                    So far as I can tell, it's not at all obvious which avoids more extra cost -- closing down and saving on energy but paying all that OT at once, or not closing down and not saving on energy but paying some (maybe as much, maybe not) OT spread over the year.

                    I understand the idea of optics, but I'm far more interested in working on issues which have a much bigger impact on the operations of our government and it's role in helping people live safer, healthier, more productive lives.  I'm not Joe Everyman, but I just don't hear folks complaining that gov't employees are getting perks because of St Patricuvation Day.  Then again, I don't hang out with many Herald readers.

                    • Totally agree, except

                      Dismissing a viewpoint as "Herald" readers is, in my view, a concession of defeat.

                      The optics are far too important to be dismissed so cavalierly.  It isn't just one thing, it is a steady stream.  Toll collectors for the pike get shocking salary, huge pension, early retrement.  The double dipping stories.  Etc, etc.  Always, the Democrats dismiss these things as isolated problems that are really only X% of the budget, so why all the fuss?

                      The tendency among "progressives" is to dismiss all of this as Howie Carr trolling, and then return focus on the next big project "that will have a much bigger impact..."  Carr is a jackass and is often unfair, but has made a career out of flagging outrageous wastes of money in our government.

                      Our governor, to his credit, has had more success than any recent governor in improving these abuses.  But too little, to quietly, and against too much obvious resistance from our Democratic legislature.

                      Next time there is a post on some desperately needed thing that can't be accomplished or properly funded by the government, note the comments from you, KBusch, lightiris, and Ryan lamenting the fact that people don't trust government and think that most government spending is waste, and why can't we convince them that government can be a force for the good?

                      Why?  Optics.  People believe what they see, and always will.  Want to convince them?  Change what they see.  

                    • I hear you

                      But look -- government entails thousands of employees, hundreds of departments, tens of thousands of transactions, etc.

                      The number of individual moving parts is massive.  As a result, they won't all be perfect.  There will be situations where things are clearly out of line with what we as a society have for expectations -- the Carman's 23, for example.

                      I'm not arguing that government shouldn't work to resolve those clear problems, and the ones which are pure optics (like St Patricuation day) too.  Here's the thing: there will always be Herald front pagers like this.  Always.  There's just too many moving parts, involving real human beings making decisions on a day to day basis.  So yeah, fix stuff like the Carmans 23 -- that's real money.  The optics stuff will always be a steady stream, and so long as Republicans bang on the "government is bad" drum, Democrats can either join them in badmouthing government, or we can quietly try to resolve some of those problems (reacting or being proactive), but also say:

                      For God's sake, there are far bigger issues to worry about right now.  Let's focus on real solutions to real problems.

      • ka-ching!

  3. I vote for making such holidays...

    ... mandatory for all.

    It bothers me to no end that your typical American service/retail worker usually gets only three holidays a year guaranteed, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. And often they end up having to work those, too.

    • Exactly

      or even better yet, allow the days (for all workers) to be used as emergency call-out days when something happens at home that needs to be attended to.  Such as flooded basement, sick kids, loved-one hospitalized, etc.   That is much more valuable to a worker than having a pre-selected date off.

    • The only workers who can be assured

      of actually getting most holidays off are government employees, and pseudo government employees such as bankers and financial industry employees. The rest, especially those in service industries, like retail and restaurants, work. Hell, I don't even like the NBA and NFL games that are on major holidays. Either it is a holiday, or it isn't. Pick one option and enforce it. I understand the exception for critical public safety occupations.

  4. If this $quot;debate$quot;...

    ...on the subject from last year was a boxing match, it would have been stopped in the first round by TKO:

    It's time to end this special perk.  It's indefensible.  

  5. Modified Iron Triangle

    The relationship between the municipal unions and Beacon Hill is like the Iron Triangle (the famous dynamic that exists between Congress, the executive bureaucracy, and an interest group), except that in this case, the bureaucracy is the interest group!


  6. $quot;Either everyone should get these two days off, or no one should$quot;

    Any state rep with the guts to file a bill declaring those two days as holidays?  It seems that it's politically easier to take vacation time from people than give it to them.

    sabutai   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  7. Private vs. Public

    Most private firms have ten days off, public employees have 13 or 15. This policy is just taking advantage of the tax payer.

    • source?

      • State Employees

        I found 15 days on some word document on the state's web site.

        The BLS data has the average in the private sector at 7.6 days.  This data is from 1996 though http://www.bls.gov/news.releas...

        • so, no source.

          14 years is a long time. And you're lumping all sorts of industries together. Some people, in some industries, basically get no paid time off. Some people in private industries do as well or better with time off. Why aren't you going after those people, too? Oh, wait, I remember, it's only union employees and public employees that make people go rabid.

          You know, there's a better way. Instead of viciously attacking your fellow man, you could argue on behalf of them, so everyone gets paid time off, even retail workers and people in the restaurant industry.  

          • Private vs. Public

            Because I'm not forced to buy something from a private company. If a firm has priced itself out of the market, I don't have to buy it. But the state takes your money under force of law.

            Regarding private holiday pay, at least in Massachusetts nothing scientific but from my experience  the average is 10 days. Why do I think this, because it works well with the holidays plus some extra days around the major ones.

            • The state takes your money

              because that's what elected leaders, who the people voted for, voted to do. So, no, the state doesn't "take" your money, per say, the people agreed to give it to them. In other words, you're not being robbed.

              Furthermore, if you don't think that a private company's decision to give 15-30 days off to their employees effects you, you're ignorant. You may not see a lot of that when shopping at Walmart or Target, but what about when you sign up for your 401(k)? Or when you go to the doctors? My mother, a nurse, at her old job, got 6 weeks off a year. Granted, she's a veteran and not too far from retirement, but she's not alone -- neither at her office nor for the industry. The public sector doesn't do any better than she has in terms of time off.

              Finally, 10 days doesn't "work well" for people, it sucks. I don't know very many people who have 10 or less days a year, and most of my friends are in their mid 20s, so haven't exactly been able to accrue lots of extra time though longevity. Then again, they were all college educated and had at least some choice over where they went to work (just like a great deal of people in the public sector). What's wrong with society is not the fact that we have some people who get a fair amount of time off, the problem is that we don't force employers to provide everyone with a fair amount of time off. People at Walmart or Star Bucks should be getting at least 15-20 days off a year, too.  

              • Then be not surprised

                That people think of Barbara Anderson as a hero, because she has led the effort to curtail the government's corrupt alliance with the public sector unions.

                That people think she has fought to curtail the fleecing of the taxpayer to finance these public sector employee's copious paid holidays to go with their huge vacation benefits, which they can accumulate over years and cash in for big dough when they retire at age 45 on their cushy pensions.

                That people know that when legislators tolerate crap like this while sadly announcing that more taxes are needed to avoid cuts to local aid, that of every new dollar taken, 50 cents will be siphoned away, and the other 50 cents will be simply wasted, and 25 cents more will be somehow borrowed to create tomorrow's dire need for more.

                The people voted for these people only because there is no one else, and because anyone elected is more or less compelled to march to the tune called by "leadership" (at least until an indictment comes and some new guy gets to issue orders for awhile).

                • Barbara Anderson is not seen as a hero

                  Insofar as she's seen as anything, she's seen as a dangerous nut. That probably accounts for why her last big push was defeated by an overwhelming margin at the ballot box; people have come to know she and her kind are full of crap.

                • at least it's getting shared

                  When the price goes up on a gallon of gas, we're pretty confident that 10% of it is for actual production and delivery costs, 20% goes toward lobbying to prevent development of energy supplies that are cleaner and 70% goes in the pockets of the fat cats who do nothing but scan headlines looking for the next bit of news they can use to justify jacking up prices.

                  Similar feelings for other industries,

                  America's turning into a great country: rank-and-file state workers attacked and vilified because they get a lousy two days off from work that you don't get. Meanwhile massive bonuses are paid out to management of companies that are taking government bailouts. Others churn huge private profits by squeezing workers and winning one tax break after another. Which do you think really costs us more?

                  • I will note

                    that rage over the bailout is, along with the Democrat's inability to stop fumbling health care, the reason for what now looks like a good year for the GOP.

                    The legislative authors of the bailouts are likely, as of now, to get hammered for precisely this reason.  This, notwithstanding that there was really no other option other than put up with the bonuses, or risk a much, much, much more severe recession.

                    You will note that this kind of ire is generally directed at industries with whom people are forced to transact.  My employer's choice of health plan.  Utility monopolies.  Government.  AIG, when AIG took money that I needed from my pocket with the cooperation of government.

                    Government: no worse than AIG, Comcast, or Ma Bell sets the bar in the basement.

            • You are forced to buy from lots of private companies

              Many industries are effectively closed to new entrants -- automobile manufacturing and retail gasoline distribution come to mind -- and many more have only minimal competition. Government is more accountable, and less confiscatory, than many areas of the private sector.

              • retail gasoline distribution

                is fiercely  competitive and automotive is a close second.

                If your local gas station charged .10 more a gallon to fund Massachusetts public employee style benefits for their employees - they would be out of business.

                what happened to the US companies that had incompetent management and voracious unions - they all went out of business.

                Sorry, I'm not forced to buy a GM car. I can also buy a volvo, a Honda.....

  8. Reminds me a bit of the health care debate

    where the tenor is so often "How come those guys get such good insurance? No fair- take it away!" instead of "Wow-those guys have good insurance. Cool- let's extend that kind of coverage to everybody!" I guess that attitude sort of represents the death knell of the labor movement. The only people who society feels should really be entitled to good benefits and time off are bankers and corporate CEO's. Everybody else should be settling for less, especially in these Tough Times, and in this Global Economy. So we occupy ourselves with trying to wipe out these last vestiges of real union influence, such as the "special privileges" for large groups of government workers, rather than trying to improve everyone the lot of other working stiffs.

    • all the differece in the world

      Access to decent heath care is a fundamental necessity to a good quality of life.  Two special holidays for only public employees in only one county is not.

      • access to

        a fair amount of time off is also "a fundamental necessity to a good quality of life."

        I, for one, would be fine with abolishing most mandated holidays if we passed a bill that guaranteed something like 4 weeks off a year -- and penalized companies that had employees who didn't take that time off.

        • no

          You greatly overestimate the importance of time off. Special holidays are not a necessity of life. Personally, given the choice between another holiday and more money, I'd take the money. Forcing holidays down people's throats is absolutley not something the government should be doing. If people want more holidays, they can join a union and negotiate for them, but not all of us like holidays.  

          • I completely, 100% disagree with you

            Honestly, I find what you say offensive to me as a human being. First of all, unfortunately it's very hard to even get in a union in this country. Roughly 12% of the country has a union and we can't even get something so basic as card-check around so people could form a union if they wanted.

            Furthermore, there's been plenty of studies done that show the average American is overworked and doesn't get enough time off a year. Many studies have also shown that getting more time off makes people more productive while they work.

            Finally, I'd be willing to bet I could go around and ask 10 people "would you like at least one more day off a year" and almost certainly each person would say yes. People may not need time off to be alive, but it is necessary for a good quality of life. If you want to be overworked and miserable, by all means, don't take time off.

            FYI: I'm not particularly married to "special holidays," so much as I just think people should have more time off.  

            • Someone's got a chip on his shoulder

              If me liking money more than holidays is offensive to you as a human being, you've got serious issues.

              If more time off really does make people more productive, companies are free to give their workers more time off. The law doesn't restrict them from doing that.

              And if people want time off, they can look for jobs that give it to them. Or join unions. Lack of card check does not make unions impotent. Lack of interest among workers makes unions impotent. Card check would be nice, but this is really a matter of failed organizing by unions. Competent union leadership would create strong unions even without card check. So, if you want more time off, help the unions become competent again.

              But the fact that the majority of people want something does not make it acceptable to force it on everyone, especially when  the majority can get what they want through non-dictatorial means. Your tyranny of the majority approach offends me as a human being.  

        • It's not time off...

          ...that is the issue, it is the holidays- those are two separate things.  If anything, it's better for the employees to be able to use the day when they want instead of getting off the two days selected by histo/political happenstance.  As for your four weeks proposal, I would vote for it.

          But, plus or minus two days off is not going to literally kill anybody, while poor of access to health care will and has and does...every day.  It's frankly belittling to the supreme importance of universal access to decent health care to compare it to this prized perk of the hackocracy.  

          • No, they're not,

            Not exactly. The holidays are time off.

            I would more than support getting rid of the holidays so long as people still get the same amount of time off, but that's not the proposal on the table.

            I'm glad you'd support a guaranteed ~ four weeks off for full time employees, though. It certainly won't "literally kill" people to work more, but the fact that Americans are overworked does contribute to a worse quality of life for the people of this country.

            And, yes, I do feel as though this is right up there with health care in terms of importance for quality of life issues. The average twenty something is healthy and won't need health insurance very often, but may only get a few days off a year, if they're lucky and allowed to use it (this was my sister for a very long time). The average fifty something may have a decent amount of time off, but has a much larger chance of developing health problems and needs insurance, if they're lucky enough to be able to afford it. Both are major problems in society today, "it's frankly belittling" that you'd choose to make the comparison an issue. It's not like we can't demand both.  

          • isn't that a problem scout?

            That something literally has to come to someone's death before people think it should be considered?

            I think Farnkoff is absolutely right and I think we're becoming an ugly, selfish nation where we're constantly pitted against each other with themes that lead to actions that only benefit the already haves.

    • This could not have been said better

  9. If they really want the day off

    they can take it unpaid.  But it should apply to all workers, not just state workers. This would actually benefit working parents who use all of their own sick time to stay home with their children when they are sick.  Having two extra floating days to use for emergencies would mean those parents might be able to stay off of the "call out" warning reports. You know: verbal warning, 1st written, final written, FIRED! It would be especially helpful for single parents who can't share the "stay at home" role.

    I think the rules should be the same for all employees. There is no need for state workers to get more perks.

    Repeat after me: verbal warning, 1st written, final written, FIRED!  Almost has a sing-song quality to it.

  10. At one time civil servants were paid low wages.

    The jobs could be filled by anyone from lamp-lighter to elevator operator to clerk.  As time went on the bureaucracies needed better educated people to deal with changing complications in government administration.  Well, governments couldn't offer more money without the voters going wild, so they got time off.  

    Since about the '70s government pay has come around to first be equal to similar private company positions and now is higher.  Thanks to better economic times, the taxpayers didn't care.  Now, combined with all the time off, a better all round choice for an employee is the civil service job.  

    While working in a bureaucracy back in the '70s, I remember an old timer looking at his pay raise.  "Wow!, times have changed.  When I started this job, no civil servant could afford a house."  Times have changed.

    • Federal pay ahead of private industry

      Good article from USA today on compensation on public workers vs. private. Really the wages seems to be about the same, but the benefits in the public sector are huge.

      "These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis."


      In the private sector if you offer benefits like this you go out of business, in the public sector you just raise taxes.

  11. I pick $quot;everyone should$quot;

    It's not like the average worker at the state house gets tons of time off. I don't think we should allow third-rail politics to punish them. Why not make it a state holiday so everyone would get it? ... the average American gets a woeful amount of time off, too. Are national or state holidays the best way to give people time off? Maybe not, but I don't see the state or federal government creating a law mandating full time employees get at least 4 weeks off a year, like the french did.

  12. Those residents in areas where Bunker Hill & Evacuation Days

    are holidays get it off, at least as much as any non government employee actually gets it off. If you live in other areas, it's not a holiday. Unfortunately, most of the operational offices of the government are located in that area, so they close down, and those outside who need contact with those closed offices can't conduct their business and close, too. I really don't have a problem with Suffolk Country having their own little holiday, I just want the state government to figure out a way to stay open for business for those of us who don't live there.

  13. Remember

    Today and Bunker Hill Day when we are discussing cuts to state aid for municipalities.  Initial state house estimates are for $200 million in cuts.  These potential cuts would be 2.5% less if these holidays were eliminated.

    I read the comments about how people deserve more and more time off as it is a "right".  Sounds great in concept, but how does that work in practice.  Anyone willing to pay $5 per shirt for dry cleaning?  Anyone want to pay $50 for a cab ride from downtown to the airport? Anyone willing to pay $10 for a beer or mediocre wine at a local bar?

    Yeah, small businesses would be killed if you mandated paid holidays across the board.  I have one question - how many here shop at Walmart, chain stores or on-line (Amazon, etc.) because it costs less?  If you answer yes but still argue for more paid time off as a "right" I have to ask how does small business pay for this?  Yes, its easy to call for more paid days off, but its not realistic.  No one, and I mean no one, is willing to pay what it would cost.

    I give Bob lots of credit for again raising this issue.  The fact that these holidays continue in these difficult economic times is testimony to the fact that people want the best, but do not want to be the ones to pay for it.

    • Not necessarily a linear relationship

      First, thanks for the thanks :-) Second, however, there are many countries with a higher or equal standard of living to the US that also have more holidays. France, for example, requires five weeks of paid vacation by law, another dozen public holidays, and a maximum 35-hour work week, with no paid overtime allowed. Many workers get eight weeks. There are lots of other examples. These countries manage to organize their societies in a more efficient way than we do, which allows them both to make more money, and to have more time off. We can too. I agree that this is not a matter of "rights" but of optimal outcomes.

    • Way off

      Sounds great in concept, but how does that work in practice.

      It seems to work fine in France, where they get a guaranteed month off. It works well in other Western countries, where employees tend to get more time off, too. Why can't it work in America?

      Anyone willing to pay $5 per shirt for dry cleaning?  Anyone want to pay $50 for a cab ride from downtown to the airport? Anyone willing to pay $10 for a beer or mediocre wine at a local bar?

      That sort of bogus strawman is BS. It's the kind of crap that reminds me of all the people who shout faux claims of "inflation, inflation!!!" at minimum-wage advocates. I did a lot of research on minimum wage increases and what impact they had on inflation while doing an internship a few years ago and there was one study that used a Florida min wage increase as an example, finding that it would only add a few cents to a $25 shirt.

      Not only do people tend to dramatically overstate the worry of inflation, they completely neglect to realize effects of the new money added to the economy in the hands of people who are most likely to spend it (people who don't have enough to begin with). That additional money helps business absorb any marginally increased costs to the company.

      While that's a different issue than vacation time, we're still talking about a modest increase in costs for employers. More people would have more time and money to infuse right back into the economy. Business costs could quite easily be absorbed through that increased costumer pool and, thus, profits, as well as absorbing much of the costs of additional days off off through staff (i.e. a store may have 3 people on staff, but could run for a day with just two).

      I have one question - how many here shop at Walmart, chain stores or on-line (Amazon, etc.) because it costs less?  If you answer yes but still argue for more paid time off as a "right" I have to ask how does small business pay for this?

      First, Walmart and Amazon don't cost less just because of the way they treat their employees. They cost less because they squeeze their suppliers much, much harder through their larger size. In Amazon's case, it costs less because it doesn't need to have a thousand and one chains across the country, and the hundreds of thousands of people they'd need to staff them.

      Yeah, small businesses would be killed if you mandated paid holidays across the board.

      Are they "killed" with the mandated paid holidays today? If not, why not? At what level would small businesses be "killed?" If large corporations could handle it, but small businesses can't, should we mandate it for larger ones? You've haven't seemed to ask a single one of these questions before rabidly jumping to conclusions.

      At the end of the day, many businesses, including small businesses, wouldn't be impacted a great deal. If the law was for 15 paid days off, for example, most non-retail companies already offer that or something close to it.

      The companies that would be impacted should be able to absorb additional costs through increased profits, labor that's already there and, perhaps, increasing prices by a margin likely too small for the average consumer to notice.

      • I'm no fan of Wal*Mart

        but they also have lower prices because they have a far leaner supply chain.  Better inventory counts, lower WIP, better demand forecasting models, etc.  It's not all the result of bullying.

        • Oh, I agree

          There's a lot of reasons why they do well, but it's probably the one company in the country that can go to a potential business they'd want to use employ to supply them with products and say, "oh, you make this product in the United States? Now make it in China if you want to us to sell your product."

          Anyhow, my point was only that forcing them to give their employees vacation time would only marginally effect a company like that, at most. Still, their ability to collect every marginal bit of savings and profits is why, as you point out, they do so well. If we don't force them to change their ways, they won't, even if them changing won't really impact their customers.  

      • Walmart is a great example

        First, Walmart and Amazon don't cost less just because of the way they treat their employees. They cost less because they squeeze their suppliers much, much harder through their larger size. In Amazon's case, it costs less because it doesn't need to have a thousand and one chains across the country, and the hundreds of thousands of people they'd need to staff them

        Walmart turns the screws on all of their suppliers, and wages are a big part of costs, especially if you are making something.  So if X minutes = Y widgets, mandating additional pay without additional output will make costs go up and make Walmart look elsewhere. It is actually possible to make product in the US and sell it Walmart - but your margins are going to very tight and you sure aren't going to be offer State of Massachusetts benefits to your staff.

  14. My thoughts

    Never mind France, the state of Texas has more holidays than Massachusetts. What should make Massachusetts residents proud is that while our holidays honor Independence and our unique role in it, Texas sets aside a day to honor Confederate war heroes, which up until the 1930s was the same day Robert E. Lee was born.


    Massachusetts loves (in fact depends) on its history to market itself as a tourist destination.  Tourists know our history sometimes better than we do.

    Instead of trying to kick state employees, it'd be better to burnish these singular honorable holidays into something more attractive that we could market and make money off.

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Thu 18 Dec 6:44 PM