Oakland County workers to get Election Day off as paid holiday
Pontiac — Christmas came early for Oakland County government workers in the form of a new paid holiday.
The Democratic-controlled Board of Commissioners last week passed a resolution along party lines designating Election Day — the Tuesday following the first Monday in November during even years — as a paid holiday for Oakland County employees. The resolution by Commissioner Nancy Quarles, D-Southfield, is set to “promote civic engagement among county employees and their families” according to a news release.
“We are making a strong statement about the importance of voting rights and the duty of employers to remove barriers for working people to get involved in their government,” said Quarles, stressing Oakland County was “leading by example.”
The United Auto Workers union got the paid holiday for its workers in the contracts of Chrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors in 1999.
Beginning next November, Oakland will join a growing number of government workers — including Michigan state employees and those in Wayne and Macomb counties — who enjoy the day off as a paid holiday. Nationally, 30 states have time-off-to-vote laws, also referred to as voter-leave law and 348 companies across the U.S. have established Election Day in November as a holiday or provide time off for employees to aid them in casting their votes.
“Actions like this will hopefully lead to greater civic engagement, increased voter participation, and will motivate other communities and the nation to join us,” said Oakland Board of Commissioners Chairman David Woodward, D-Royal Oak.
Not everyone is celebrating. The board approved the resolution 11-7 along party lines. Three Republican county officials were absent.
“I think its unnecessary,” said Commissioner Bob Hoffman, R-Highland, who opposed the resolution. “My father, and others, never had the day off and they voted, without fail, at every election all their lives.
“The polls open before the normal work day begins and are open into the evening,” Hoffman noted. “And we have no-reason absentee ballots available to every voter now.
"So what’s the hardship? I don’t get it. But it's hard to compete with Santa Claus.”
Under the resolution, the county clerk and others required to work on Election Day will receive an additional floating holiday to compensate for the day off provided to other county workers. They will be compensated at the regular overtime rate for hours worked on Election Day in November in even years when elections decide the next governor and president..
Under the resolution, requirements for union represented employees to work on Election Day in November, even years, will be addressed through contract negotiations. Traditionally, county unions have obtained “me, too” provisions to their contracts for equal benefits in Oakland and neighboring counties.
Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Lisa Brown said the state Legislature should make Election Day a holiday in Michigan for everyone.
“It’s not just about easier access to the ballot, it allows a talented pool of people to be available to work in their precinct or absentee counting board on Election Day," said Brown, a Democrat. "Residents should know that my elections staff and I will be in the office working.”