Congress adds a holiday for federal employees: Juneteenth - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomePoliticsCongress adds a holiday for federal employees: Juneteenth

Congress adds a holiday for federal employees: Juneteenth

Don’t try calling any federal office on June 19. It’s going to be a paid holiday.

The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, a bill that celebrates the emancipation of the last remaining enslaved African-Americans after the Civil War passed the Senate by unanimously on Tuesday night, then passed the House quickly on Wednesday, 415-14. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Also known as Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union Army rode into Galveston, Texas, to inform still-enslaved African-Americans that the Civil War had ended and that they had been freed under the Emancipation Proclamation.

President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation two years earlier, ending slavery in states that had seceded, as Texas had done in 1861. The official end to slavery in the entire country came on Dec. 6, 1865, with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. June 19th has long been a regional and cultural day of celebration that has gained more notoriety in the post-George Floyd months of civil unrest.

The bill was sprung on the Senate by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and he fast-tracked it on Tuesday. There was no discussion of a fiscal note for adding more days off for federal employees, but last year when a similar bill was in play the cost was estimated to be $600 million per year. Those with concerns about the fiscal impact or policy had given up, seeing that the votes to pass were overwhelming.

In the U.S. House, Congressman Don Young voted in favor of the bill. The 14 who voted against it were Republicans.

In Florida, a Juneteenth state holiday was passed this year by the Legislature, and the fiscal note said the state would “incur additional costs of approximately $2.5 million as a result of the special compensatory leave accrued each state holiday. Overall, state government will lose the value of a work day for all state employees. This lost value is estimated to be in excess of $14.5 million.”

Juneteenth is also a paid state worker holiday in Texas, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and most recently, Illinois.

In Alaska, Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson introduced SB 5, to make Juneteenth a paid holiday for State of Alaska workers, with co-sponsors Scott Kawasaki, Tom Begich, and Lyman Hoffman. The bill is in the State Affairs Committee, its only referral. There is no fiscal note attached yet.

Alaska State employees already have 11 days off as paid holidays each year, in addition to their accrued vacation days. Gray-Jackson would add a 12th paid holiday to the schedule that now includes:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (3rd Monday in January)
  • President’s Day (3rd Monday in February)
  • Seward’s Day (Last Monday in March)
  • Memorial Day (Las Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (1st Monday in September)
  • Alaska Day (October 18)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

For the two million federal workers, Juneteenth will be the 11th paid holiday, in addition to their two or more weeks of paid leave. That is an increase of over 10 percent of their existing days off. Other paid holidays are:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday
  • Washington’s Birthday
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day
  • “Columbus Day” (also as Indigenous Peoples Day)
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas
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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • “Juneteenth” just sounds ignorant. Acceptable for former slaves who probably didn’t understand calendars, but stupid 156 years later. Anyway, we already have a whole month of Black History, what’s next, Black year?

  • Oh great! Just what federal, state, and city employees need another holiday to twiddle their thumbs on and not know what to do about the interruption. I know some state employees, they hate the holidays cause it messes up their mental wellness schedule of having something to do for 5 days for 8 hours. If they were allowed they’d work Saturday too!

  • When I think of Juneteenth all I see is how many laws Democrats passed disenfranchising the newly freedmen.

    When it should have stopped at the Civil Rights Act, it just took a new form after Lyndon B Johnson, so Democrat racism never stopped toward people who are non white and non rich, thanks to the Democrat Party.

  • Incredible…. more paid time off

  • Nice more free money

    Wait where’s our free money, yes the people’s PFD

  • I’m sorry, but the word “Juneteenth” sounds ignorant to me — like somebody who can’t figure out how to say “June nineteenth”, or whatever date is implied. Beyond that, I am against making federal holidays of dates that are significant only to a minority of the population.

  • Aww to be someone, who is paid not to work.

  • Another made up holiday that we have to pay for. I’m all for giving federal employees days off but with no pay. If “Juneteenth” is such an important day for them then they shouldn’t mind taking the day off with no pay to celebrate the momentous occasion of some guy riding into town on his horse to give them the good news of freedom.

  • My wife is a state employee here in Florida and I hope they adopt the paid day off. Might as well get something out of this fiasco. All things come to an end, and the end of slavery in this country marked a passage to where Africans no longer were forced to work for the landowners, but chose to work for the landowners with share crops. In most cases, ex slaves had better living conditions under slavery and when they started to have to pay their own bills. Surprisingly how times haven’t changed that much. Now, most descendants of slaves are still slaves to the Federal welfare system of the 1960s. So yeah, nothing much has changed except hopefully we get another paid day off.

  • If this was such an important day then why has it gone all this time without being a paid federal holiday in the first place? Only when we get a implanted president and the rise of BLM does this happen? I’m sorry this should not be a holiday at all. All this is doing is spreading the fire of the race wars. It’s enough.

  • Maybe I’m not very sensitive but, I feel that on Veteran’s Day only Veteran’s should get the day off with pay. Therefore, if Juneteenth is enacted, only African Americans should get the day off with pay. (Keep in mind that over 600,000 soldiers died in order to enact the Emancipation Proclamation. THAT was a huge payment as over half of that total were union soldiers) No reason to pay every federal, state and muni worker for breathing.

  • It’s official, June 19th has been declared a federal holiday, I’m not sure what to make of it honestly.

  • Young voted in favor? Way past time to retire Don.
    They’ve all forgotten what they are there for.
    This is not it.

  • Princess Lisa was there sucking up to Veep Throat for the signing. Perhaps she should be presented with a shipment of Chapstick.

  • Must be nice to get an extra paid holiday while the most corrupt Administration in U.S. History is stripping our rights away and bleeding us dry by allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to pour across our border. Business as usual for the Federal Government. It is time for the States to reign in our runaway Federal Government and for the people to regain control over our governmental institutions that have forgotten their oath to the Constitution and to represent the people, not rule over them!

  • Somehow I suspect that the benefits package for MRAK employees might be a bit on the stingy side…

  • Suzanne does work hard, Whidbey. You oughta try it some time.

  • Madam, there can be no doubt about your energy and commitment, judging by the times of morning, day, and night that you screen reader’s comments.

  • Oh boy are you kidding me
    Chuck Schumer and his buddy Nancy are so afraid President Trump will be back that this is one more ploy to look like they care. There are Asians, Hispanics, Korean, Chinese and Japanese just to mention equally important people. Oh, I almost forgot the white race too! Go away already. Your ignorance is so embarrassing, “Mr. Biden.” And take your cronies with you…
    Please

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