A growing number of companies are giving their workers a paid day off on Friday in observation of Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S.
After weeks of demonstrations and protests over the killing of George Floyd, major companies moved to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for their workers.
Juneteenth, a combination of the month's name and the date, the 19th, marks the day in 1865 when, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect, a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned that they were free from the institution of slavery.
Nearly every state and Washington, D.C. recognizes the day as a holiday or observance, although it is not a federal holiday. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas introduced legislation to make it a federal holiday along with a handful of Democratic senators, including Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.
Companies officially observing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for employees this year include Nike, Twitter, Square, Mastercard, Adobe, Postmates, Quicken Loans, Target, Ben & Jerry's, Workday, Tumblr and J.C. Penney. Media companies that have made Juneteenth a holiday are The New York Times, The Washington Post and Vox Media.
“We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different," Target CEO and chairman Brian Cornell said in an online statement. "Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment."
Best Buy will mark the day as a paid holiday next year; this year, it is offering employees a "paid volunteer day," which they can take on June 19 or another day this year, to participate in "peaceful protests, rallies and community service," it said in a release.
Lyft is making the date an official holiday and will do so in future years too, the company announced in a tweet. Uber is also providing employees with a paid holiday.
"Celebrating Juneteenth is just one step in our ongoing journey toward racial equality at Lyft, and in this country," the company said. "We're committed to building a company that reflects the people we serve. And there's more we can do."
A handful of entertainment services are also making the date a paid holiday for workers. In addition to observing Juneteenth as a holiday, Spotify said it will exclusively feature music from black artists in its popular New Music Friday playlist. Hulu delayed the premiere of some films so that they wouldn't coincide with Juneteenth, and Netflix curated a collection of "Black Lives Matters" titles.
Both Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave state employees the day off. Northam has said he hopes to make the date a permanent paid state holiday in future years.
“It’s time we elevate Juneteenth not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us," he said in a statement. "It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country, and it matters now because it says to Black communities, this is not just your history—this is everyone’s shared history, and we will celebrate it together."
Some corporations have announced efforts to observe Juneteenth that do not include giving their workers the day off. U.S. Bank and JPMorgan & Chase will both close their offices and branches at 1 p.m. Capital One Financial Corp, Fifth Third Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group, meanwhile, will close their branches at 2 p.m.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos encouraged workers to cancel all of their meetings and said the e-commerce behemoth would host "learning opportunities" for employees throughout the day to educate themselves.
General Motors will stop its North American production lines and observe eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence on each shift, representing the length of time that a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old black man. Fiat Chrysler and Ford will also hold a moment of silence at their U.S. factories.