As the Senate passes Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, corporations including Best Buy and National Grid join a growing list of businesses who’ve recognized the occasion in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
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This story was last updated on June 17 at 9:15 a.m. EST.
This Saturday is Juneteenth, the annual holiday long recognized by Black communities nationwide every June 19. It was on that date in 1865 when a Union general arrived in Galveston, Texas and informed slaves there that the Civil War had concluded and they were free — more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln officially decreed the freedom of all enslaved Americans via the Emancipation Proclamation.
But ever since social-justice protests proliferated in the wake of George Floyd’s murder last May, Americans of all backgrounds have been compelled to commemorate Juneteenth. That includes Congress. Just yesterday, the Senate unanimously passed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which would acknowledge Juneteenth as a federal holiday and is expected to be passed in kind by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Joe Biden.
Parallel recognition continues in corporate America as well. Earlier this week, Best Buy announced it will be observing Juneteenth as a paid company holiday beginning this year. (With the caveat that while corporate offices will close, in-store workers will be paid time and a half for their shifts that day, similar to the precedent already set by other larger retailers like Target.)
Related: U.S. Black Chambers Celebrates Juneteenth’s 150th With Launch of byblack
Utility giant National Grid also released a statement earlier this month declaring Juneteenth as a company holiday for all its U.S. employees. Even the insurance industry is meeting the moment, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, among others, penning op-eds and issuing press releases and affirming that they will close their offices to celebrate Juneteenth beginning this year.
Those are just a handful of the high-profile companies joining a coalition that swelled to dozens of notable brands in June 2000, including Nike, Adobe and Spotify, and is sure to grow from here.
Update: In reporting this piece, Entrepreneur reached out to a handful of companies who had not yet declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for their employees. Among them was General Motors, who honored the day in 2020 with a company-wide moment of silence. The GM brand responded to our request for an update on their policy with the following statement:
“General Motors is committed to empowering the Black community and providing a platform for all employees to listen, learn and reflect about the significance of Juneteenth and the active role we all play in dismantling systemic racism. While Juneteenth is not a paid day off for GM employees, we are commemorating Juneteenth through a “day on” of service. As we continue our journey to becoming the most inclusive company in the world, our Juneteenth programming will focus on allyship and storytelling through volunteering and community engagement, hosting internal conversations about the history of Juneteenth, sharing thoughtful employee reflections on what this day means to them and sponsoring the national Juneteenth Freedom Festival.”
Update: The House of Representatives likewise passed the proposed bill on June 16, paving the way for President Biden to sign it into law, most likely ahead of this Saturday’s holiday.
Please revisit Entrepreneur.com tomorrow for an in-depth conversation with newly appointed Paradigm for Parity CEO Sandra Quince about Juneteenth and the path to corporate equity.
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