Companies, States Observe Juneteenth

A growing number of businesses are giving employees off today to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.

June 19, 2020

NEW YORK—It isn’t a federal holiday, but 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize June 19 as a holiday or special observance, the Wall Street Journal reports. Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States when, in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, a group of enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.

Many African-Americans have long celebrated Juneteenth—a combination of June and nineteenth—but recently, more companies and states have added it to their own calendars as a holiday. This year, around 200 companies, including Nike, Twitter, Mastercard, TikTok, Lyft, the New York Times, Vox, Square, Spotify and Best Buy, have announced June 19 as a paid holiday, while U.S. Bancorp and others are observing Juneteenth through early closures, among other ways. At NACS, employees have the option of taking paid time off as a day of reflection in observance of Juneteenth.

For example, Target will remain open but will allow full-time workers the option of having the day off with pay, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Its headquarters office will close, while hourly staff who decide to work will receive time and a half pay. “We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different,” said Brian Cornell, Target’s chairman/CEO. “Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment.”

Altria Group will also organize a company-wide paid “Day of Healing” on June 19 “to allow employees time for personal reflection and healing,” the Retail Leader reports. The Altria Group also made commitments to racial equity through a $5 million donation to “address systemic racism faced by black Americans and advance social and economic equity.”

In addition, this year, the governors of Virginia and New York made the day a paid day off for state employees, Yahoo! Life reports. Texas is the only other state to have Juneteenth as an official state holiday. Both Virginia and New York governors said they would codify the day as a permanent holiday through their state legislatures.