Seattle council affirms city workers get May Day off

Apr 24, 2017, 10:18 AM | Updated: Apr 25, 2017, 1:15 pm

Kshama Sawant, women's day rally, May Day...

Kshama Sawant says the rally and march she is participating in will be peaceful. (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant urged her peers to give city employees the option to take May Day off. They obliged Monday afternoon by unanimously voting to make it official.

RELATED: Seattle prepares for marches and mayhem on May Day 2017

Sawant introduced a resolution proclaiming that city workers have the “right to take the day off on May 1, 2017, without retaliation.” The resolution also asks that city departments inform non-emergency workers that they have the right to request the day off to attend the “celebrations.” While the council unanimously approved the resolution, Councilmember Tim Burgess reminded the council chambers that state law already provides employees the right to take two days of conscience off each year, and that the Seattle council was reaffirming that sentiment.

“I urge council members to approve this May Day resolution, which explicitly recognizes the right of city workers to take the day off and provides protection to city workers who may otherwise worry about retaliation,” a statement from Sawant said before Monday’s vote. “May Day has historically been an important day of action for worker and immigrant rights. It’s especially significant this year, with immigrants, working people, labor unions, women, and the LGBTQ community under attack from Donald Trump. If Seattle is truly a Sanctuary City that supports immigrants and working people, then it should lead the way by enabling City employees to stand in solidarity with immigrants and all workers on May 1.

“Further, I call on everyone who opposes Trump’s bigoted, anti-worker agenda to participate in peaceful May Day activities, particularly the official May 1 Action Coalition march. Join our growing Resist Trump Coalition to actively organize and build the fightback against the billionaire class.”

While the day off for Seattle city employees is allowed, it is not paid. Workers are not required to take the day off, but it is an option for them.

Every year on May 1, a workers’ rights march is held in Seattle as part of International Workers’ Day. The march, attended by thousands, is typically peaceful. Other marches, however, unrelated to the workers’ march during the day, typically occur in the evening and into the night. Those have become known for antagonism, violence, and damage. It’s something that council members pointed out Monday, while also noting that they expect May 1, 2017 to be quite bigger than in past years given the political climate with Donald Trump in the White House.

“This is going to be a different sort of May Day … in light of the assault on workers’ rights and immigrants’ rights in our nation,” Councilmember Lisa Herbold said.

“This is a peaceful rally,” Councilmember Bagshaw said. “We have seen May Day turn into an anarchist field day the last number of years and I think that really belies what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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