Every year, Betsy Feldstein has to use her two personal days to celebrate her faith’s major holidays.
Azra Haqqie does too.
On Tuesday, both Betsy, who is Jewish, and Azra, who is Muslim, came to the bargaining table to discuss the Guild’s proposal to allow non-Christians to get the major religious holidays off without having to use personal or vacation time. Both work in the newsroom as editorial assistants.
All employees receive Christmas as a holiday. Most Christian employees are off on Easter Sunday, and the Guild has never had a complaint from anyone unable to get that day off to celebrate. The major Jewish and Muslim holidays, however, often fall on weekdays when staff would normally be working.
“It’s a matter of fairness and inclusion,” Betsy told bargainers from both sides. “We should aim to be tolerant of diversity. If you want to attract a diverse workforce, you have to be sensitive to their needs.”
Azra said the newsroom has been understanding of her faith and enables her to attend Sabbath services on Friday afternoons. “There are two major Muslim holidays, and I have taken them as personal days or vacation days,” she said.
General Manager George Hearst told both members they were well spoken. Afterward, he asked the union bargainiers if they could provide more specific language on the holidays involved, rather than the more general language the union proposed. The Guild said it would do so.
If any employee is of a faith not mentioned, please communicate with the Guild about what holidays are important to you. And thanks to Betsy and Azra for taking the time to come to the table today.