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King Holiday Doesn’t Score Big With American Businesses With PM-King’s Birthday

January 16, 1992

ATLANTA (AP) _ Only 17 percent of 545 private employers questioned nationwide give their workers Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, according to a survey indicating the holiday hasn’t caught on with corporate America.

″I don’t know if the corporations are quite that aware of their dismal record,″ said Ronald Quincy, executive director of the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. ″I think clearly that many of the corporations do look for the government to take the lead on this.″

The holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader is observed by governments in all states but Arizona and New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, a Civil Rights Day will be celebrated for the first time Monday, but government offices will be open. State workers can either take the day off with pay or take another day off with pay during the year.

But the survey of 545 American businesses shows that King Day ranks 14th out of 15 holidays granted by at least some of the businesses. The survey was conducted by a Washington-based research and publishing orgnization called the Bureau of National Affairs.

It falls not only behind such holidays as Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and Independence Day, but also behind Presidents Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, the day after Thanksgiving and Good Friday. It ranks ahead of an employee’s birthday, which 16 percent of the companies offer as a holiday.

Even in King’s birthplace of Atlanta, where a parade in observance of King Day is scheduled Monday, several businesses have called the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday Commission to complain that the festivities will disrupt their workday.

″Most businesses in the downtown area would like to operate as if it were a normal day,″ said the Rev. James Orange, a union organizer who was a top aide to King.

Big businesses that don’t give the day off include the Coors Brewing Co., which has a float entered in Atlanta’s King Day parade, and Georgia-Pacific, which is one of Georgia’s largest employers.

But both companies say employees may take the day off as one of their ″floating holidays,″ which workers can use any time of the year.

Critics complain that mainly blacks are inclined to use a floating holiday to honor King, however.

″One of our challenges is to make sure that the holiday is not only an African-American holiday, but one observed by all,″ said Allan Minton of the federal Holiday Commission.

″When you allow it to be a floater holiday, you tend to have different ethnic groups taking the day off, which creates divisions among the staff,″ Minton said.

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