Happy Seward's Day, Alaska state government workers! - Must Read Alaska
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Happy Seward’s Day, Alaska state government workers!

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Monday, March 25 is Seward’s Day, the uniquely Alaska day that allows State of Alaska workers a day off on the last Monday of every March to enjoy time with their families and friends. It’s one of the unique benefits afforded to State workers, along with a 37.5 hour work week.

So who is William Seward? Depends on who you ask. For some Alaska Natives, he is the epitome of colonial expansion policy of Manifest Destiny, 19th-century doctrine that the expansion of the United States throughout the American continents was inevitable and proper.

Few remember that Seward, a Republican, was seriously injured and was, indeed, an actual target of the 1865 assassination plot that killed Lincoln.

Seward remained Secretary of State through the presidency of Andrew Johnson, during which he negotiated the Alaska Purchase in 1867, and he was loyal to Johnson during his impeachment.

Here’s the official State Department biography of him:

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln chose his former rival for the Republican presidential nomination Senator William Henry Seward of New York to be his Secretary of State. He served under Lincoln and his successor, Andrew Johnson, until 1869.   Although Seward was at times impetuous – shortly after taking office in 1861 he proposed to Lincoln that the Union be preserved by starting a war with France or Spain – Lincoln blocked his imprudent projects and channeled his brilliance and effervescence into more useful activities.

An outspoken abolitionist, Seward negotiated the Lyons-Seward Treaty of 1862, which put in place new measures to end the Atlantic slave trade.

During the Civil War, he carefully managed diplomatic relations with Great Britain and France. He persuaded the British government to stop British shipyards from building war ships for the Confederacy. And he continually pressed the French and British not to recognize the Confederate states as an independent nation.  His success on behalf of the Union cause was rewarded by an attempted assassination on the same night that the conspirators killed Lincoln.  Fortunately, Seward survived the attack.

Seward was a firm proponent of the Monroe Doctrine and a firm believer in its philosophical underpinning, Manifest Destiny—the inevitability of the United States expanding west to the Pacific Ocean.  As early as 1846, Seward had stated that “our population is destined to roll its resistless waves to the icy barriers of the north, and to encounter oriental civilization on the shores of the Pacific.”

The end of the Civil War in 1865 enabled him to put his beliefs into practice.  Two of his major achievements occurred in 1867.  With the use of restraint, tact, and wisdom, Seward’s efforts over several years to persuade Emperor Napoleon III to withdraw French troops from Mexico came to fruition.

That same year, Seward negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. He had wisely invited Senator Charles Sumner, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to join him in the negotiation with the Russian minister.  Sumner persuaded the Senate to give its consent to the treaty, 37 to 2.

When the appropriation for the purchase languished in the House of Representatives, reflecting the views of Eastern newspapers which ridiculed the agreement as “Seward’s Folly,” the mostly favorable Western newspapers helped to persuade public opinion and the House to support the purchase.

The sale ended Russian influence in North America, gave the United States access to the northern Pacific Ocean, and added territory nearly twice the size of Texas for about 2 cents an acre. Asked to name his greatest achievement, Seward said “The purchase of Alaska, but it will take the people a generation to find it out.”

Seward also attempted to purchase the Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) and to annex the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.  Not content with having reached the Pacific Coast, Seward wanted to move into the Pacific itself, to support both trade with the East and the defense of the United States.  While he successfully appropriated Midway Island, he was not successful in gaining control of the Hawaiian Islands.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Do SOA workers still enjoy 37 1/2 hour “work” weeks? BTW I’m not suggesting they “work” longer.

      • How charmingly incongruous! French labour rules and a budget crisis.

  • Wow! So state workers are happy to take a day off to celebrate a man that tried to make slavery a constitutionally protected right? They should be feeling triggered or looking for a safe space. I can’t believe the SJW crowd in Juneau goes along with this travesty. Read about it in the link below.

    https://www.lib.niu.edu/2006/ih060934.html

  • I detect more than a little jealousy in the opening paragraph, folks. You know, most State employee work hard and professionally at their jobs, and do it to support their families, just as you all do. If they have a pretty sweet deal, who is to blame them for taking it? Many MRA readers would take similar situations if offered. Please don’t cast negative aspersions on them, Suzanne, You know it’s unfair and unkind. If you want to blame someone, blame the Legislators from the past (and the voters that elected them), who setup the generous terms and conditions of employment. Not the employees.

  • I have to point out that it is true that when I did my sojourn as a state employee I officially had a 37.5 hour work week. Many of my colleagues worked more, but not all.

    It is also true that I took more than a 50% pay cut (less than 50%, , but still considerable if you consider holidays, paid time off and slightly more generous health benefits)

    I believed in my work and I gladly worked unpaid overtime here and there when an important project needed attention. But if Must Read Alaska wanted me to work 60 hour weeks and not get less paid time off, somebody at the State would need to shake the money tree and find a way to compensate me commensurate with what private industry pays me.

    This is like criticizing a Walmart greeter for only working part time.

  • It might help to remember that the 37.5 hour work week was a negotiated agreement between the State and it’s workers when there was no money for long overdue raises. It was given in lieu of a raise.

  • I am not a fan of the first paragraph either dissing State workers like that. They are not the ones who pick which Holidays they get off. That is the DOL. And yes, some State Workers only work 37.5hrs, but that is what they are paid for too. They are not paid 40hrs for 37.5 hr work weeks. The SU actually went to a 40hr work week and that was their slight pay increase. Most State workers have not received any COLA in years. After 7yrs of service you stop getting your minimal step increases (which are slight, you barely see them), and every year the health premiums go up, so every year the paychecks are going down, yet living expenses go up. Especially living here in Anchorage where the Muni has outrageous taxes on everything. I have worked for the private sector that offered insurance, holidays, etc and I can tell you the pay was more than some state workers get for what they do. The state offers its workers nice benefits, but the pay scale is actually lower than the private sector. Also, the retirement benefits are not what they used to be with the State. Tier III and IV are normal retirement plans that any Private sector would offer.

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