NEW YORK (AP) – Declaration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday puts pressure on more US companies to give their employees a day off, accelerating a move that took off last year in response to protests for the racial justice that swept across the country.

Hundreds of leading companies had already promised last year observe Juneteenth in the aftermath of the police assassination of George Floyd and the nationwide racism report that followed.

But most private companies look to the federal government – the nation’s largest employer – for their vacation schedules. President Joe Biden law signed Thursday establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery, following the passage of a bipartisan bill by Congress.

More than 800 companies have publicly pledged to observe Juneteenth, according to HellaCreative, a group of black creative professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area that launched a campaign last year to strengthen support for companies to do so. from June 19 a public holiday. This is almost double the number of companies that signed up to the pledge last year.

Patagonia, the outerwear retailer, announced that all of its U.S. stores will be closed on Saturday and its offices will be closed on Monday. Other brands, including Target, JC Penney and Best Buy, pledged last year to adopt Juneteenth as a paid holiday, despite keeping stores open. Several large banks have said employees will benefit from a floating paid day off.

Many businesses, however, have had little time to shuffle their vacation schedules. Some have offered employees a regular paid day off or have promised to consider adding it to their schedules next year.

The Nasdaq said its US stock exchange would remain open Friday and Monday “to maintain a fair and orderly market and to minimize operational risks,” but that it would discuss its future vacation schedule with the regulator and businesses.

State governments who had not already declared the June 15 public holiday were also scrambling to meet the new federal public holiday. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced that all state government offices would be closed on Friday, replacing a state law signed two days earlier that would have made June 19 a public holiday the year next.

Even though federal holidays like Thanksgiving are widely observed, private companies are not required to offer a particular day off. But as many workers don’t know, they’ll likely wonder why they don’t get paid time off by June 17 of this year, said Carolina Valencia, director of human resources practice at research firm Gartner.

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

“A lot of employees are going to resent their employers for not giving them a vacation because they don’t understand that it’s a complicated process,” Valencia said.

But she said the devil would be in the details. Many companies will likely offer it as a floating day off, making Juneteenth unlikely to become a national holiday on par with July 4 or Memorial Day any time soon.

And many notable companies have not joined the movement. Walmart, which employs 300,000 black hourly workers and is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, told The Associated Press in an email that its employees are free to take paid time off to observe the holidays they they wish, including Juneteenth.

Raheem Thompson, a social media specialist for a retail company, said he was disappointed he didn’t get a paid day off. Instead, he said the company sent an email acknowledging the federal holiday and pledging to consider time off in the future.

“It’s kind of the bare minimum,” said Thompson, who lives in Atlanta but didn’t want his company named for fear of repercussions. “I don’t think that as people of color we really care that you recognize him by email … it doesn’t really make sense.”

juinteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers announced freedom to enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas, two months after Confederacy surrendered. It was also about two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern States.

Black Americans, especially in Texas, have long celebrated June 19 with picnics and church speeches. But the federal holiday declaration brought it to the attention of some Americans for the first time.

Jamie Hickey, founder of a small fitness business in Philadelphia, said he had never heard of Juneteenth until he heard about it on the radio last week. Then his four coaches started talking about it over lunch, and he asked them if it was important to them. He decided to make it a day off next year because it was too late to cancel clients this year.

They said, ‘Are you serious, did you just hear about this? “said Hickey, who founded TruismFitness last year after the fitness chain closed where he and his other trainers closed due to the pandemic.

Hickey said he took the lead in his employees because, as a white man, he feared jumping into trends to be accused of symbolism.

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

That’s a major concern, even among the largest employees, said Erin Eve, CEO of Ichor Strategies, which advises the company on connecting businesses with their communities. Eve said companies would be called out by their employees, customers and even investors if they took action like observing Juneteenth without investing in black communities or examining their own internal diversity.

Still, Eve said declaring Juneteenth as a federal holiday will increasingly make businesses that don’t follow suit look worse.

“For current employees, this will reaffirm a dissonance with their values,” said Eve.


Associated Press Writers Uroomba Jamal, Anne D’Innocenzio, Michelle Chapman and Roger Schneider contributed to this story.

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