Cut hours instead of holidays

Joe Tassinari is an El Dorado County Mentors Plus program maker and Lotus river guide

The degree of peace in a society is directly related to the amount of free time enjoyed by its people. More scheduled time means less peace; less scheduled time means more peace. We all enjoy the extra day off because of holidays. The three-day weekends and floating holidays offer islands of serenity in the wacky world of employment.

California state employees currently receive Labor and Memorial days, the Fourth of July, and President’s Day, along with Martin Luther King Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Washington’s birthday, Cesar Chavez Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, two days for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a floating holiday: a total of 14.

Governor Schwarzenegger wants to reduce paid state holidays from 14 to 12 to trim the budget. Taxpayers would save $21.2 million per year in overtime pay for health, fire, CHP, and prison personnel, as well as receiving two more days of state services.

This is a bad idea that will deflate the morale of state employees. Holidays offer breathing room in the inane 40-hour workweek. State workers—for that matter, any worker—will be less productive with less time off.

A better solution would be to recalculate full-time employee status to a 36-hour workweek for all state personnel. Though this would result in a 10 percent reduction in salary, it would still ensure state employees would retain full benefits.

California employs 200,000 unionized state workers with an annual payroll of $10.2 billion in salary and non-health care benefits. If our budget-minded governor would include non-union state personnel like legislators, commissioners, board members, etc., this would bring the total state outlay for employment compensation to roughly $11 billion. If everyone received a 10 percent reduction in pay, the annual savings would be $1.1 billion, dwarfing his proposed holiday savings of $21.2 million.

Reduced pay for state workers would be offset by the increased mental health due to working fewer hours. Picture an 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. shift on Monday, and a seven-hour workday on Friday. Wouldn’t this be a nice way to begin and end the week?

The added time-off would uplift the spirits of state workers and enable greater production, while cutting billions of dollars from California’s budget. This idea would work so well that the private and federal sectors would follow suit, leading to a more healthy and peaceful society.