Board adds Veterans Day to official city holidays

Some unions must give up another day off to observe

December 09, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The city's Board of Estimates approved making Veterans Day an official government holiday in Baltimore yesterday, but only for employees who celebrate Presidents Day on one day instead of as two separate observances.

Employees who take off two days for the birthdays of Presidents Lincoln and Washington would have to agree to surrender one of those holidays to be eligible to have Veterans Day off.

The board approved the measure 4-1 after Mayor Martin O'Malley argued that the city had to balance the financial impact of adding an extra holiday for the entire city by persuading some city unions to give up another day off.

"We have to find a way to make this happen in a financially prudent way," O'Malley said.

Comptroller Joan M. Pratt voted against the resolution because she said there was no clarification on what happens if some unions do not give back a holiday.

"I am in support of Veterans Day as a holiday," Pratt said. "But what happens if the unions say no? It should have been negotiated before it came to the board."

This week, the City Council approved an ordinance that called for making Veterans Day a holiday for the entire city - without conditions. Both the board's and the council's measures call for beginning the observance of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 2007, a move designed to give the labor commissioner time to negotiate with the unions.

The council's ordinance had raised the question of whether it or the board's resolution dictated such holidays. The council's measure is now moot, however, because O'Malley did not sign it.

The only city employees who now get Veterans Day off are police. Their contract also gives them two other holidays that the rest of the city work force doesn't get: Maryland Day and Defenders' Day. Police officers get 14 holidays. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and City Union of Baltimore workers get 11 holidays. Firefighters and fire officers get 10.

Only the firefighting unions celebrate Presidents Day as a single holiday.

Glenard S. Middleton Sr., president of AFSCME Local 44, said AFSCME and CUB are the lowest-paid workers after police and fire department employees. He said they should not have to give up a holiday.

"Let us have 14 holidays like the police have," Middleton said. "This action continues to show that you don't care about the lowest-paid workers in the city."

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