Juneteenth - A New Federal Holiday!

July 9, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. This law establishes June 19 of each year as a federal holiday. President Biden then declared it would be observed the next day, June 18, 2021, as June 19 fell on a Saturday.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, TX the end of slavery in accordance with President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. This day has become known as ‘Juneteenth’ to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is currently recognized by 48 states as the official commemoration of the End of Slavery and some states already recognized the day as a paid holiday.

There was a strong bipartisan support to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983, as the Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill, and the House of Representatives voted 415 to 14 in favor of it. The APWU applauds the act of Congress in passing this law.

The APWU immediately demanded that the Postal Service recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. The Postal Service is one of the most diverse employers in the United States, and is also required under the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 to be a model employer for the country.

The statement issued by USPS Headquarters on June 17 gave the union an indication that this issue will be positively resolved in the future. As this issue goes to press, the APWU is continuing discussions on how the holiday will be recognized in the future and what “make up” actions the Postal Service will take.

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