Federal holiday pressures companies to give Juneteenth off – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

NEW YORK (AP) – The Juniteenth Federal Holiday Declaration is putting pressure on more U.S. businesses to give their employees a day off and accelerating a movement last year in response to protests against racial justice struck the country recorded, began.

Hundreds of top corporations had pledged last year to watch the Juneteenth following the police murder of George Floyd and the ensuing national reckoning with racism.

But most private companies orient themselves towards the federal government – the largest employer in the country – when creating their vacation calendar. President Joe Biden signed law Thursday setting June thenth as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery after a bipartisan Congressional bill was passed.

More than 800 companies have made public commitments, according to HellaCreative, a group of black creatives in the San Francisco Bay Area that launched a campaign last year to enlist corporate support to make June 19 a public holiday to commit the Juniteenth. That is almost twice as many companies as last year.

Outdoor apparel retailer Patagonia announced that all of its US stores will close on Saturday and all of its corporate offices will close on Monday. Other brands, including Target, JC Penney, and Best Buy, committed to making Juneteenth a paid holiday last year, despite keeping stores open. Several major banks have announced that employees will be given a paid day off.

However, many companies have had little time to change their vacation calendars. Some offered employees a regular paid day off or promised to add it to their calendars next year.

Nasdaq said its US stock exchange would remain open Friday and Monday “to maintain a fair and orderly market and minimize operational risk,” but it would discuss its future holiday schedule with regulators and companies.

The governments of the states that had not yet declared June 10 a public holiday also tried to respond to the new federal holiday. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that all government offices in the state will close on Friday, replacing a state bill signed just two days earlier that would have made June 19 a public holiday next year.

Although holidays like Thanksgiving are common, private companies are not required to offer a specific day off. But since many workers don’t know, they are likely to wonder why they aren’t getting paid vacation on June 10 this year, said Carolina Valencia, vice president of human resources at research firm Gartner.

At a time of heightened employee activism and fierce competition for talent, Valencia expects the number of companies offering Juneteenth to increase over the next year after employers have had more time to react.

“Many employees will resent their employers for not giving them leave because they fail to understand that this is a complicated process,” Valencia said.

But she said the devil is in the details. Many companies are likely to offer it as a floating day off, making Juneteenth unlikely to become a national holiday equal to July 4th or Memorial Day anytime soon.

And many well-known companies have not joined the movement. Walmart, which employs 300,000 black hourly workers and is the country’s largest private sector employer, told The Associated Press in an email that its employees are free to use paid time off to honor any holiday they wish, including Juneteenth.

Raheem Thompson, a social media specialist for a retail company, said he was disappointed not getting a paid day off. Instead, he said the company sent an email confirming the federal holiday and promising to consider some time off in the future.

“It’s an absolute minimum,” said Thompson, who lives in Atlanta but didn’t want his company to be named for fear of the consequences. “I don’t think it is really important to us as People of Color that you confirm this by email … it doesn’t really matter.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought news of freedom to enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederation surrendered. That was about two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation that freed slaves in the southern states.

Black Americans, especially in Texas, have long celebrated Juniteenth with church picnics and speeches. But the state holiday declaration first brought this to the attention of some Americans.

Jamie Hickey, founder of a small fitness company in Philadelphia, said he had never heard of Juneteenth until he heard about it on the radio last week. Then his four trainers started talking about it over lunch and he asked them if they cared about it. He decided to take a day off next year as it was too late to cancel customers this year.

“They said, ‘Are you serious, are you hearing about this?'” Said Hickey, who founded Truism Fitness last year after the fitness chain he and his other coaches worked for closed because of the pandemic.

Hickey said he took the lead from his staff because, as a white man, he was worried about jumping into trends only to be accused of tokenism.

“I don’t want to pretend. If you’re wrong, you get caught and it’s a million times worse, ”said Hickey.

That’s a big concern of even the biggest of employees, said Eric Eve, CEO of Ichor Strategies, which advises companies on how businesses connect with their communities. Eve said companies get calls from their employees, customers, and even investors when they take steps like watching the juneteenth without investing in black communities or looking at their own internal diversity.

Still, Eve said the June 10th federal holiday statement made companies that don’t follow suit look increasingly bad.

“For current employees, it will reinforce a dissonance with their values,” said Eve.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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