U.S. federal employees will be granted a paid holiday on Friday after President Joe Biden signs legislation establishing Juneteenth into law, the Office of Personnel Management said Thursday.
The holiday commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. and establishes the first new federal holiday in nearly four decades.
Today @POTUS will sign the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19th as a federal holiday. As the 19th falls on a Saturday, most federal employees will observe the holiday tomorrow, June 18th.
— U.S. Office of Personnel Management (@USOPM)
June 17, 2021
Congress cleared the legislation creating the holiday Wednesday evening, and Biden will sign the act Thursday afternoon during a ceremony at the White House with Vice President Kamala Harris.
The holiday commemorates the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas were freed by the U.S. Army. The designation comes after more than a year of a national racial reckoning sparked by police killings of Black Americans.
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The law will force U.S. employers to decide whether to give their workers a paid day off. Many companies and union contracts peg their holiday schedule to the federal calendar, which will now recognize 11 holidays per year.
Momentum for the holiday built quickly through the week, after the Senate passed the legislation by unanimous consent on Tuesday and the House followed with a 415-14 vote the next day. The law had long been championed by Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, in addition to Democrats.
The effort was also boosted by companies including Nike Inc., Spotify Technology SA, and Target Corp., which said they would give employees time off or bonus pay to commemorate the holiday in the wake of last year’s protests against police violence. While 47 states and the District of Columbia already recognize Juneteenth, few companies or local governments previously designated it as a paid holiday.