The city of Boston has essentially eliminated the infamous “hack holidays,” the longstanding tradition that once gave municipal workers paid days off on Bunker Hill Day and Evacuation Day, which happens to fall on St. Patrick’s Day.
But the ritual lives on for the Boston City Council.
First, the background: The state passed a law in 2010 requiring government offices to remain open and staffed on Evacuation Day (March 17) and Bunker Hill Day (June 17). The holidays had long been part of union contracts, so the city offered employees two floating days off in exchange.
When the city renegotiated union contracts, it eliminated the holidays and the two floating days off for any employee hired after Jan. 1, 2013. Mayor Thomas M. Menino applied the same standard to himself, his Cabinet, and all department heads. The exclusion includes City Council staff members: no hack holidays and no floating days off.
But the city councilors have not followed suit. The full council meets each Wednesday afternoon except during weeks when there is a holiday, such as Christmas, Veterans Day, and Patriots Day (the third week of April). It also skips seven of nine Wednesdays in July and August for summer break.
The council does not have its regular Wednesday meeting this week, in apparent recognition of Evacuation Day. The council does not meet the week of Bunker Hill Day either, which happens to be the height of the city’s budget season.
The meeting schedule is the work of the council’s president, Stephen J. Murphy, who did not return phone messages seeking comment. In a text message, Murphy noted that, “Offices are open, no floating holiday, just no meeting.” Murphy added that the full City Council “meets an average of three times a month every month!”
One fiscal watchdog urged the city to end the two floating days off in union contracts and suggested the City Council should help lead by example.
“It should be business as usual at the City Council,” said Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. “There are enough holidays and vacation days for them to take.”