Let It Snow
Christmas eve traditionally softens the hearts of employers toward their charges, and the word goes out that it's OK to leave the workplace early with the organization's best wishes for a happy holiday. No so in the cold-hearted world of government contracting in the 1960s. My workday at the McCoy Job Corps Center, as most were, was scheduled to run from 8 a.m to 5 p.m. as usual.
Karl Wagner, a former public school system superintendent who held a PhD in education, was the newly appointed center director as my second holiday season at McCoy approached. Wagner blithely let it be known to those in the headquarters building that he intended to release all personnel who were not needed for security reasons or to supervise residential living at noon on the day before Christmas.
The word got to Al Groncki the morning of the 24th. Groncki was on loan from the U.S. Forest Service to the anti-poverty agency that administered the Job Corps program. His job was to see that RCA, our employer, observed the letter of the law in meeting the provisions of its contract to operate the McCoy Center. He took his job very seriously.
"Not so fast," Groncki said. "The contract calls for all employees to work a full day on December 24. Dr. Wagner, you have no authority to release the workers early."
Wagner had an attorney and two contract specialists on his staff. He summoned them to his office and told them to find a way he could get around the contract provision. They couldn't find a thing, except one small clause that allowed the director to send employees home if a natural disaster put them in jeopardy.
Wagner looked out his office window and observed a few snowflakes falling. "Tell Groncki I'm declaring a snow emergency, and tell the department heads to send all employees who don't live at the center home immediately before this blizzard makes the roads impassable."
I just saw some snowflakes. Please, take the rest of the day off. And, Merry Christmas!