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Petition for an Extra Day Off at Christmas Falls Just Short of Demanding a Response

Movement comes within a few thousand signatures of the 100,000 needed to guarantee a reply from the White House.

Tens of thousands of federal employees signed an online petition asking President Obama to give civil servants a four-day weekend around the Christmas holiday this year, but ultimately the document fell just short of receiving the 100,000 signatures needed to prompt a White House response.

Employees had until Wednesday to join the cause, which calls for the president to declare an extra holiday on Friday, Dec. 26. Obama has pledged to respond to any petition on the White House’s We the People website that garners more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days.

As of mid-day on Nov. 19, the request for an extra day off had garnered roughly 92,500 supporters, 7,500 short of the goal. The White House has now removed the petition from its site, so it is unclear how close it came to reaching the threshold.

The request – started by an employee in Oklahoma City -- is framed as a way to boost morale among federal employees following the recent pay freeze and furloughs. But some commenters on Government Executive’s original story about the petition said that it could reinforce negative stereotypes of the federal workforce.

“When will people realize these types of antics give us feds a bad reputation?” one reader wrote. “Historically, presidents have done this so a petition is not needed. If we get the day off, great. If not, use your leave. One thing we do receive as federal employees is a generous leave policy and around the holidays it is usually 'liberal leave' approval. This just makes us look needy.”

Another said federal employees have other, higher-priority concerns: “Folks need to stop asking for this stuff,” the comment stated. “1.) He is not fed employee-friendly and is not going to do anything for us, and 2.), we have bigger issues like pay lower than [the] private sector for commensurate positions.”

As the first reader noted, the petition’s failure doesn’t necessarily mean there is no hope. President Obama could decide on his own to declare the day a holiday. Indeed, there is good historical precedent for that. The two most recent years Christmas fell on a Thursday were 2003 and 2008. In both cases, President George W. Bush gave federal employees an extra day off on Friday, Dec. 26, creating a four-day weekend.

For those who don’t want to leave anything to chance, there is one other option: The We the People page with the now-defunct document notes that, “While you can't sign this petition, there may be other petitions on We the People on a similar issue that you'd like to add your name to. Or, you can create your own petition.”

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