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Local editorials

Recognizing King City of Medford and its unions should change holiday policy

At first blush, it seems like an astonishing black mark on the city of Medford: It is one of the few governments around not to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a holiday for its employees.

But a closer inspection of the issue suggests it's bureaucracy and not bigotry at work here. It also puts equal responsibility on the very workers who say they want to honor King, but whose actions don't back up their words.

All federal and state and most local governments close for business on the third Monday of each January. That near-universal recognition took time: When the holiday was first adopted two decades ago, there was some notable foot-dragging by public bodies across the country, driven by either political or racist motivations.

That doesn't seem to be the case in Medford, where the lack of full recognition of the holiday is instead the result of a labor contract difference and a failure on the parts of city and union leaders to step forward and resolve it.

The city of Medford closes for eight holidays and offers workers four additional floating holidays that can be used anytime, including on MLK Day. The city says it cannot afford the expense of adding another holiday to the list.

The unions, however, note that contracts specify that if the city recognizes an additional holiday and closes its facilities, that day must be added to the number of days off for union members.

— It seems to us that the solution is already in hand and that both the city and the union should make every effort to pull themselves out of the 1950s and join the rest of the world in recognizing Dr. King.

Twelve holidays is an ample number of days off for city workers, who also, of course, have vacation days. They would find few private employers who offer that many days off and probably few public or nonprofits with that generous a schedule.

The unions should do the right thing and offer to give up one of the floating holidays in exchange for establishing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a regular holiday. They lose only a bit of flexibility.

For its part, the city should be willing to close its doors to recognize the day. It's not just about recognizing the man ' it's about recognizing the importance of racial equality and the value of all people.

It's embarrassing for the city, which represents us all in the public eye, and for its unions to ignore a holiday that is so widely recognized. They both should come together and make a change for the better.

Winning and sharing Giving back to the community offers benefits on each level of the process. Many involved people volunteer their time and expertise to favorite causes regularly and we see evidence of these giving people in our paper almost daily.

Of course, another effective way to contribute is with good old-fashioned money. For most of us, that means giving &

36;10, &

36;20, or perhaps &

36;50. But, occasionally, we have citizens who are in a position to help on a more generous monetary scale.

Two such donors are Powerball co-winners Bob and Frances Chaney, who recently donated &

36;6,000 to both the police and fire departments in their hometown of Jacksonville. Their gifts allowed both departments to purchase needed equipment, purchases that had been put off because of a lack of funds.

Not many of us are in a position to pick a favorite cause and contribute a sizable check, but volunteering time and smaller amounts of money is a grand way to give back. As for folks like the Chaneys, it's nice to see their willingness to spread around some of their good fortune.