What happens now that Juneteenth is a national holiday in the US?

On Wednesday, Congress voted in favor of making Juneteenth — which celebrates the end of slavery — a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the bill on Thursday.

What does this mean for American workers? It depends.

There are two reasons why federal employees may not receive a paid day off marking the occasion until 2022. First, the signing of the bill comes so late in June that there is not much time left for bureaucratic changes to calendars and payroll departments. Second, June 19 falls on a Saturday this year (normally that will mean that workers have the preceding Friday off).

Some companies had already decided to make it a paid day off last year after Black Lives Matter protests raised awareness of issues of inequality. Adobe, Allstate, Altria, Apple, Best Buy, Cisco, Facebook, JCPenney,  Lyft, Nike, Spotify, Square, Twitter, and Zillow all recognized the national holiday before it was a bill and declared that corporate employees (and some retail workers) would get a paid day off every June 19.

While most states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday or have an official observance of the day (with celebrations), as of this writing, only Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington recognize it as a paid holiday.

How do people celebrate it?

Juneteenth is an opportunity to celebrate both the end of slavery and African-American heritage. As with July 4, there may be parades, marches, barbecues as well as public-service awards, prayer, and the raising of the Juneteenth Flag of Freedom (half red and half blue with a star in the middle).

Other facts about Juneteenth

  • The name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth,” which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and shared the news of emancipation with slaves (more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863).
  • The first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday was Texas, in 1980.
  • This is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.