Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes public holidays for Federal employees. If the holiday falls on a non-workday (Saturday or Sunday)—the holiday is observed on a weekday. To be clear, in the U.S.A we have 10 federal holidays: New Year’s Day, MLK’s Birthday, Washington’s birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day.
If you are a federal employee, or one that works in a union and fights for these paid days off, you are overjoyed at these holidays. Particularly, you may be more overjoyed when you get off on federal holidays that don’t require a lot of family, food or fun, but perhaps just a relaxing day in bed catching up on the DVR. Veterans Day may be one of them.
All of my life I have gotten off from school on Veteran’s Day until senior year of high school and this is the first year I have had to work on this holiday. At my high school, we ‘observed’ Veteran’s Day conveniently when it allowed the school board to bundle Election Day, teacher’s conventions etc. together to give students and faculty a whole week off. I now work at a university, a public one nonetheless, that gives only TWO federal holidays to faculty and students in the traditional Fall and Spring semesters—Thanksgiving Day and MLK Day. Yes, no Labor Day, no Columbus Day, and no Veterans Day.
However, this really bothers me. I don’t like “moving” holidays for convenience to bundle a week together when it is actually not the correct date nor do I like not giving public employees these holidays (who get paid from states funds, in which some is received initially from the federal government for schools). But, perhaps it is more efficient.
In an article from BBC, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that business lose 19 billion pounds a year if Britain scraped their 8 bank holidays in England and Wales, 9 in Scotland and 10 in Ireland. However, in Britain 5 holidays occur in April, May and June. Although retail shops and restaurants are found to have an increase in revenue, factories and offices lose money on these days. Their argument, though, is not for a reduction of holidays by the economists, but rather a spreading out of public holidays. Besides the obvious fact that no one wants to lose paid days off, the economists find that spreading the holidays out would help boost GDP.
If this is truly correct, than perhaps we don’t need to bundle up Election Day and Veteran’s Day together with teacher’s conferences. However, another BBC article that quotes a professor of statistics at CEBR states that:
“there is no easy relationship between having a bank holiday and the rate of GDP... when calculating the impact of an extra days off, it is important to distinguish between what is genuinely lost from the economy and spending that has just been delayed. For instance, a car owner who might otherwise have taken their vehicle for its annual service on 5 June, only to find the mechanics were having a day off, would most likely reschedule soon after.Likewise, many office workers could avoid a drop in productivity by anticipating the extra day off, working overtime to compensate for the lost shift.”
Their article actually produces a mixed result after June 5, Britain’s Diamond Jubilee Day, in which some professors are quoting an estimated higher GDP due to the holiday and some a lower GDP.
However, an article from China Business indicates that the holiday effect is really one in which people spend more money, but not on items that they otherwise would not. He states that not all holidays produce a holiday effect and only working “holidays” such as Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year etc. produce this effect since businesses are open. If they are not open, like on Christmas, this does not have such an effect.
The truth of the matter is that little economic work has been done to uncover the impacts of federal holidays and there is no firm answer as to the actual ‘costs’ to federal holidays. The little work that has been done, however, shows some evidence that moving the holidays to spread them out might increase our economy’s GDP. However, these are not results I firmly stand by. I do, however, want to make an argument to observe Veterans Day on its natural holiday due to historical reasons. Let me example more.
On the 11th hour on the 11th day on the 11th month, fighting from WW1 stopped despite the Treaty of Versailles being signed on June 28, 1919. Since fighting persisted until November 11, 1913 it is regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars”. President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following quote:
“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
Further, the U.S. Congress stated that November 11 is a legal holiday on May 13, 1938 in a resolution and as such the date should be “commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations”.
Particularly, the Uniform Holiday Bill was signed on June 28, 1968. This bill intended for three-day weekends for all federal employees on 4 holidays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. The intention was to extend weekends to encourage travel, recreation and cultural activities. The states did not agree with this and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates. In 1978, President Ford signed into Public law that the annual observe of Veteran’s Day actually be on November 11 due to historical significance. Most state legislatures agree that no matter what day of the week it falls, it shall continue to be on that day.
Then why do school districts and state move or not observe these dates? (Okay, South Carolina does not recognize Columbus Day as a holiday at all, fair enough… but Labor Day?) The truth is that state and local governments, including schools, are not required to follow federal Office of Personal Management (OPM) closure policies and may choose to close or remain open.
So, unfortunately for you and me, we may not work for the federal government so we are working today. I love Veteran’s Day and what it stand for and I wish we kept its natural date observance. However, I also wish I had a paid day off today because it is my birthday. Happy Veterans Day!
1. Memorial Day is for all military personnel who died in service, Veterans Day is for all those who served honorably in military, in wartime or peacetime, living or dead.
2. Red poppies are given out today because of the poem “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 by John McCrae.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
- How Americans fought to restore Veterans Day to November (givemeliberty01.com)