Committee meeting missed shot at resolving ongoing ‘sickout’ issues

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The first substantial step made in the effort to end the “sick out” being staged by City of Selma Public Works Department employees came Wednesday during a public meeting between the employees and members of the city council. As a condition of their return to work, employees are asking for “additional staff, adequate wages and pay and additional equipment.”

Employees met with the Administrative, Public Works and Recreation committees – chaired respectively by Selma City Councilmen Carl Bowline, John Leashore and Michael Johnson. In what we hoped would be a productive meeting, where both sides found common ground that would result in actionable solutions, instead devolved into a gripe session and an opportunity to take shots at the media for reporting on the situation.

Multiple Public Works Department employees took turns stating that the “sickout” never actually occurred, that workers had been on the job the entire time, while other city departments stated that they had never been involved in a “sickout,” and that reports stating otherwise were inaccurate.

If there is a question as to the validity of the term “sickout,” one needs look no further than Selma Mayor Darrio Melton for its application to this situation. In an Oct. 2 email from Melton, in response to a request for comment regarding the demands of the workers using accrued time away from the job, Melton used the term “sickout” to describe what was happening.

“I recently learned there may be other departments and employees who will be participating in what appears to be a ‘sick-out,’” Melton said in the email. “I haven’t [been] informed how long this will take place. I have been told that employees will be out as long as it takes for the Council to address their needs and concerns.”

In the same email, Melton detailed which departments were taking part in the action.

“All departments are already understaffed so with the ‘sick-out’ there are no employees in the following departments: Tax & License, Building Inspector, Clerk, Landfill, Public Works, Planning and Development, and Recreation,” Melton stated in the email.

Melton, who attended Wednesday’s meeting and heard, like we did, employees questioning the validity of our reporting, made no effort to clarify where the term came from, which is interesting, and disappointing.

If in fact the action should not have been called a “sickout” in the first place, maybe Melton should not have framed employee’s actions that way in his Oct. 2 email.

Instead of arguing semantics of what the employee’s not doing their jobs should be called, employees, the council and the mayor should have spent the time being productive and working together to find a solution that gets employees doing what they are being paid to do. Instead, the situation is no closer to being resolved than it was when the meeting began.

Previously, Council President Corey Bowie has recommended councilmembers hold what he termed an “exploratory” meeting with Melton, which he hoped would mend fences and lead to a solution that is good for everyone. That would be a good step if all the participants were willing, but from what we’ve witnessed so far, Melton’s definition of compromise is “my way or the highway.”

It’s long past time for those who are in positions of authority and who have the ability to end this to come together for the good of the city and all who live here. Meanwhile, the trash continues to pile up, the grass and weeds continue to grow, and the taxpayers of Selma continue to get the shaft.