For the first time since 1934, government workers in Sandusky, Ohio will be working on October 12th.
The city commissioners approved a measure that would officially eliminate Columbus Day as a federal holiday. In lieu of the lost holiday, Election Day would officially replace it. In a statement to the Sandusky Register, city manager Eric Wobster explicitly stated that the reason for the shift was twofold;
We are swapping them to prioritize Voting Day as a day off so that our employees can vote…It’s also because Columbus Day has become controversial, and many cities have eliminated it as a holiday.
The city appears to consider this “killing two birds with one stone.” However, each decision is sure to face its own set of controversy.
The overall legality of this decision is a matter of some question. According to Ohio Revised Code Chapter 124.18(B)(1) public employees cannot be required to work on federal holidays unless their job is ruled essential (firefighters, police officers, etc…). Should they be forced to work On Columbus Day, they might be entitled to some form of overtime pay. It is unlikely that employees will press the issue, but certain advocacy groups might.
In recent years the Columbus Day holiday has the been the subject of some controversy. Statistically Progressive groups have come to see him as a symbol of the mass genocide of the First Nation peoples of America. Many hope to see Columbus Day replaced with “Indigenous Peoples Day.” Conversely, many groups, most notably Italian-Americans, see him as a national hero who discovered and paved the way for the United States of America. They have aggressively fought attempts to have his name, legacy, and statues removed. While this issue has reached a stalemate nationally, the issue of election day is far more immediate.
Hr. 1, the ‘For the People Act,” is an extensive and comprehensive bill proposed by the new Democratic house that would have, among other issues, made Election Day a national holiday. The legislation also included measures like mandating that the President and Vice-President release their tax returns. This felt to many as a measure specifically targeted at President Trump, who has refused to release his tax returns. McConnell called the measure “a political power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”
Currently, the bill is considered unlikely to pass.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].