Congress Passes Bill To Make Juneteenth A Federal Holiday
Congress has now passed a bill to establish Juneteenth as a federal holiday. On Wednesday, June 16th, the House approved the motion by a vote of 415-14, just one day after it had passed the Senate on a unanimous vote on Tuesday. The president is expected to sign off on the legislation quickly.
Juneteenth will now be the 11th Federally-recognized holiday, and the first to be added since Martin Luther King Day in 1983.
Juneteenth is observed on June 19th, and commemorates the day when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free (June 19, 1865) in Galveston, Texas — nearly two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, the bill only guarantees that two million federal workers will get a day off. There is no requirement that private businesses give employees the day off. The holiday has been widely celebrated on a state level – 47 states and the District of Columbia, but now will be recognized on a national level. What this means for other workers is still unclear, but it would certainly not be surprising to see brisk activity in State Houses across the nation.
Surprisingly, surveys indicate that only about 8% of employers nationwide are currently offering June 19th as a paid holiday and (at least prior to the swift passage of this week’s federal legislation) only about 17% were considering making it a holiday. Further, almost all (96%) began offering it as a paid holiday just last year.