SIOUX CITY | Martin Luther King Jr. Day will not be marked as an official holiday on Sioux City calendars after the City Council rejected a proposal that would have given some employees the day off with pay.
A proposal brought to the council Monday would have added Martin Luther King Jr. Day to the list of holidays for three union and three employee groups that have not already bargained for the day off. The proposal was rejected 5-0.
The city recognizes eight to 12 holidays for which municipal workers get a paid day off, depending on union contract provisions.
Mayor Bob Scott said he couldn’t support the proposal because some union groups already bargained for the holiday by trading in another day off.
“I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it’s a fairness issue for me,” Scott said.
Adding another holiday could have come with a $165,000 price tag for paid overtime on top of a lost day of productivity.
Scott said that’s money that could be used to hire a police officer and firefighter. Two firefighters and a police officer position were eliminated due to budget cuts this current fiscal year.
Not everyone in attendance was sold on the financial cost.
Resident Richard Hayes said the city can and should find the money in order to designate a holiday to recognize King’s contributions to the civil rights movement.
“That’s a lousy excuse as far as I’m concerned,” Hayes said about the financial impact. “I do praise the unions that have already asked for the day off.”
Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Iowa City recognize the King holiday with a day off.
Councilwoman Rhonda Capron, though, said giving employees the day off would not promote King’s legacy. Instead, the city should find a way to celebrate the day.
Capron suggested holding a ceremony at the Martin Luther King Jr. Transportation Center downtown.
She said $165,000 is a lot of money to make it a paid holiday. “A lot of people are just going to go home. It’s just another day off to them.”
Several council members said they could support a proposal allowing unions to renegotiate their contracts to trade for the day off, but union members were not interested.
The issue could be revisited when union contracts are up in 2016.
None of the unions asked for the council to vote Monday. Instead, the proposal came at the request of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Chris DeHarty, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 212, said his union did not want to trade one of its days off, but he added King’s contributions warranted designating the day a city holiday.
“That would have been the right thing to do,” he said.