Middletown, Pa. will not have Christmas lights or decorations this year. No snowmen, no Christmas trees, no nativity scene, no lights — nothing.
That’s because they have no money.
Their plight is not unusual for governments small or large. In fact, they are simply following a trend seen all across the USA in recent years. But the powers that be in Middletown are being outspoken about one small fact: their lack of money has more to do with union costs than budgetary woes.
You see, last year the town was decorated by volunteers. And the union doesn’t like that.
Middletown was advised against using volunteers to decorate the town and Hoffer Park this year because of outstanding union grievances from last yearâ€™s decorating activities, Councilor Barbara Arnold said at a council meeting on Monday, Sept. 16. Teamsters Local 776, which represents the boroughâ€™s non-uniformed employees, is asking for 4 to 8 hours of overtime compensation for each volunteer who participated last year, said Arnold, who has spearheaded borough-sponsored community events and decorating projects.
â€œIt was so wonderful to see people come together for the good of the town,â€ she read from a prepared statement. â€œUnfortunately, the union cannot see it that way. The unionâ€™s approach to Christmas is, â€˜Bah, humbug.â€™ â€
Given a difficult financial situation in the borough, the borough canâ€™t afford to pay employees to decorate, she said. Nothing in councilâ€™s decision would stop an independent organization from deciding to decorate the town, but as far as the borough is concerned, â€œI see no way we can proceed this year,â€ she said.