SEATTLE — For the first time, thousands of workers in Washington will celebrate Juneteenth with a paid day off this Monday.
Juneteenth marks the date, June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers informed the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
The day has long been celebrated by Black Americans as a second independence day, but only in June 2021 did the federal government declare Juneteenth a national holiday. Gov. Jay Inslee made the holiday official for Washington the month before, when he signed House Bill 1016 into law. The New York Stock Exchange and other major exchanges will be closed Monday.
Workers for some of the state’s largest private employers will also get the day off.
T-Mobile, Expedia and Starbucks employees will receive paid time off or, for those required to work, time-and-a-half pay for the holiday. Spokespeople for each of the companies said employees are encouraged to spend the day engaging with their communities and celebrating Black culture.
Other companies, including Costco and Kaiser Permanente, are giving employees an extra floating holiday that they could use to celebrate Juneteenth or another day of their choosing. Alaska Airlines will follow suit next year and convert Presidents Day into a discretionary holiday.
Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Parkland, who sponsored Washington’s Juneteenth bill, said she wants to see employers give Juneteenth the same fanfare and celebration that they give the Fourth of July.
“This is a day to remember what took place — chattel slavery — and we should be celebrating that we’re not participating in that atrocity any longer,” Morgan said. The holiday also celebrates the resilience of Black ancestors, whose survival made it possible for someone like her, a Black woman, to serve as a state representative today.
Microsoft, in contrast with other employers, will involve its global workforce in a day of “exploration, learning, and engagement” rather than give workers a paid day off.
“Recognizing this day with intention allows us to stay connected to the many challenges unresolved, violence unaddressed, and inequities unchanged for the Black and African American community worldwide,” wrote Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft’s chief diversity officer, in an emailed statement. The company said it will share updates on its “Racial Equity Initiative” later this month.
Boeing also does not give workers a paid holiday for Juneteenth, but a spokesperson said team members can take paid time off with manager approval. The aerospace manufacturer, along with Amazon and Starbucks, is a presenting sponsor of the Northwest African American Museum’s “Juneteenth Week” celebration.
Employees of Renton-headquartered Providence Health & Services will not receive paid time off or holiday pay for working Monday. A spokesperson said individual hospitals “work with their union toward an outcome that best serves the caregivers in each local facility.”
The Juneteenth Foundation, which hosts the annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival, has asked large employers to give workers a paid day off so they can volunteer in their communities. The foundation also hopes companies will publish diversity and inclusion metrics, outline plans to improve equity initiatives, and match employee contributions to social justice and civil rights organizations, as well as historically Black colleges and universities.