Juneteenth, observed on June 19, is now an official public holiday in New York State.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in October 2020 officially marking Juneteenth as a state public holiday, several months after he had issued an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for state employees. Some local governments had also recognized the holiday in 2020.
The new state law celebrates Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. On June 19, 1865, a Union Army general announced the federal orders in Texas even though President Abraham Lincoln had officially outlawed slavery in Texas and the other Confederate states almost two and half years earlier.
Cuomo, when signing the legislation, noted the holiday is intended to celebrate the achievements of the Black community and provide an opportunity for self-reflection on the systemic injustices that face our society.
What it means for CSEA members
Under the official state law, Juneteenth is now a paid state holiday for state employees.
For CSEA members employed by the State Executive Branch, Juneteenth — June 19 — will become an additional paid state holiday. Workers will not lose any other paid holidays; State Executive Branch employees now have 13 paid holidays.
In 2021, Juneteenth falls on Saturday, June 19, so this would count as a pass day holiday. Eligible employees will earn 7.5 or 8 hours of holiday leave to be used at another time, subject to supervisory approval.
Employees who normally work on Saturday would receive either a paid day off, or compensatory time to be used at another time.
As this edition went to press, the Unified Court System was working on specific guidance on the Juneteenth holiday for court employees.
Some local governments and private sector employers are also observing Juneteenth. If you work for a local government or private sector employer, please consult your labor relations specialist or local/unit officers for guidance.
Many local governments and private employers are expected to observe Juneteenth this year. Some corporations are pledging additional support to ongoing efforts to fight for racial justice. In some cases, the corporations are donating to organizations that are working for equality and racial justice.
Recognizing Juneteenth is an important advancement in the ongoing fight for equality and racial justice.
“The decision to observe Juneteenth in the workplace comes as more employers voice their support for racial justice,” said Ali Cottrell, chair of CSEA’s Special Committee on Minority Issues. “The labor movement has long been a strong supporter in fighting for equality and justice. The decision to observe Juneteenth and support the fight for racial justice by government and corporations shows that labor is helping make a strong impact on history.”
— Janice Gavin and Mark M. Kotzin