Updated Jun 18, 2021 - Economy & Business

The next worker fight: Time off for Juneteenth

A photo of a blue and red Juneteenth flag.
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Who gets paid time off to celebrate Juneteenth in the years to come will be uneven and complicated, if history is any guide.

Why it matters: Corporate America hasn't grappled with a new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was authorized almost 40 years ago. How they responded took years to evolve.

  • To this day, it's among those not universally recognized as a paid day off for corporate employees — not to mention for hourly workers.

What's happening: Bank of America, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo are offering a "floating" paid holiday this year — and starting in 2022, it will be part of its holiday schedule.

  • Morgan Stanley told its employees it could "step away from work at midday" today, Bloomberg reports.
  • Nike says it will close all of its distribution centers and retail stores tomorrow, but stores like Target and JCPenney will be open. Starbucks will pay hourly workers time-and-a-half tomorrow, as it did last year.

Catch up quick: Juneteenth has been informally celebrated since 1865 — when the last enslaved people finally got word of their freedom — but corporate America began acknowledging the day just last year, weeks after George Floyd's murder.

  • Over 800 companies are now giving employees paid time off, up from roughly 500 last year, according to Hella Creative — a group that's been petitioning corporations to acknowledge the day.

What to watch: One area where the observance of federal holidays is most inconsistent is stock exchanges — the cornerstone of financial markets.

  • There's no hard-and-fast rule for when trading shuts down. The exchanges close in observance of MLK Day, but they're open on Veterans Day. They close for Good Friday, even though it's not a federal holiday.
  • What exchanges, regulators and industry groups decide for Juneteenth could push employers in adjacent industries to give workers time off.
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