Juneteenth to Become Paid Holiday at Major Companies

June 18, 2020

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. Although few major companies observed this day of remembrance in the past, many are now correcting this mistake in response to the protests that have been going on for weeks in cities across the country. Firms like Nike, Mastercard, Target, and Twitter recently announced that Juneteenth will become a paid holiday next year. Best Buy offered employees a “paid volunteer holiday” they can use this upcoming Friday or any other day in 2020.

“Starting next year, Juneteenth will become a formal, paid company holiday,” said Best Buy in a press release. “We made the decision to begin this next year only because June 19 is just a few days away, and we wanted to give as much flexibility as possible to accommodate individual schedules.” Google sent a memo encouraging “all Googlers to use this day to create space for learning and reflection, so please don’t schedule any unnecessary meetings.” Many other companies are similarly offering flexible days to use for personal reflection and to learn about the history of racism in the U.S.

“Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment,” said Target Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell. “Moving now to recognize it on an annual basis—as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves or connect with our communities—is one more important action Target can take as a company to help the country live up to the ideal of moving forward in a new way.” Still, some observers worry that the current enthusiasm for recognizing Juneteenth could soon fade away since it is not recognized as a federal holiday. After all, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday and just 39 percent of employers close on that day. “If [MLK Day] only has a 40% uptake, I can’t imagine [Juneteenth] is going to be significantly larger going forward,” said Johnny C. Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. “You may see a one-year spike.”

Questions:

  1. Why are some major companies now observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday?
  2. Do you think American companies will continue to observe Juneteenth in the long term? Why or why not?

Sources: Yelena Dzhanova, “Here’s a Running List of All the Companies Observing Juneteenth This Year,” CNBC, June 17, 2020; Kathryn Dill, “More U.S. Employers Move to Observe Juneteenth,” The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2020. Photo by Saturnsorbit.

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