Municipal Sick-Out in Selma, Alabama Leaves Doors to City Hall Shuttered

Municipal offices in Selma, Alabama were closed because of an employee sick-out on Wednesday, according to U.S. News and World Report and the Selma Times-Journal. Multiple citizens attempting to handle business were turned away, according to the Times-Journal.

Employees are striking in pursuit of additional equipment, better wages and an expanded staff.

Mayor Darrio Melton encouraged city council members to settle with the strikers' demands, and that staffers will stay out for as long as need be in order for their demands to be met. He says that all departments are already understaffed, leaving the Tax and License Department, the Building Inspector's department, the City Clerk's office, the Landfill Department, the Public Works Department, the Planning and Development Department and the Recreation Department empty of employees.

"The employees of the Public Works department and various other departments are absent today or on vacation," Selma Public Works Director Steven Hendrieth said in an email reproduced by the Times-Journal. "We need the break. We are asking that the employees are given the help they need, the equipment to be more efficient, and the raises they desperately need and deserve. Only one group of politicians has the power to make this happen. We apologize to the Mayor and the citizens of Selma for this necessary inconvenience."

The sick-out follows a vote by the city council to delay approval of Melton's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which began Tuesday, because they have lingering questions about the budget.

"As mayor, I have done my statutory duties," Melton said in the statement given to the Times-Journal. "I have met with all departments, given the council all of the needs of the various departments and established a reserve for the City of Selma in the proposed budget."

SELMA, AL - MARCH 05: A bust of Dr. Martin Luther King is displayed in front of the Brown Chapel AME Church on March 5, 2015 in Selma, Alabama. Selma civil workers are on a sick-out for an undetermined length of time until their demands for better pay have been met. Justin Sullivan/Getty

"A [deaf] ear has been turned to city employees and I believe the time has far [passed] for the council to continue to play political football with employees and the citizens whom we serve," Melton said in the press release. "I am urging the council to act immediately and meet the demands of city employees."

Selma City Council member Miah Jackson noted to the Times-Journal that nearly 70 government employees were laid off last year after the mayor's previous budget was rejected.

"It is extremely disheartening and disappointing that, once again, the city employees, citizens and council are having to manage additional difficulties facilitated by this administration," Jackson said. "The continued bullying tactics levied on the employees, citizens and council by this administration are irresponsible and reprehensible. It is these and other methods that have led to the current divisiveness in our city government."

Sick-outs by government employees are becoming a more frequently employed strategy during pay disputes. In January, 10 percent of TSA workers called in as part of a sick-out during the government shut-down.

Municipal Sick-Out in Selma, Alabama Leaves Doors to City Hall Shuttered | U.S.