New York workers to get no paid day off for Juneteenth
When George Floyd was assassinated by police last May, galvanizing protests for racial justice, efforts to recognize Juneteenth – the day to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States – gained momentum in across the country.
Mayor Bill de Blasio took note. And on June 19 of last year, he made a solemn vow.
“Starting next year, Juneteenth will be an official city holiday and official New York City school vacation,” M. de Blasio said.
He said every city employee and student would have “the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of our history.”
It was a momentous announcement for the country’s largest city and the country’s largest school system, and headlines followed.
But a year later, even as President Biden signed a bill on Thursday making June 17 a federal holiday, Mr. de Blasio’s efforts have yet to deliver the promised result. On Tuesday, just days before June 17, city workers learned they would not be getting an additional paid day off to commemorate the holiday this year.
Instead, city workers will have to use their pre-existing paid time off – an unused vacation day, for example – to celebrate the holiday, according to three city officials and a union official briefed on the matter.
The development highlights one of the lingering complaints about Mr de Blasio’s town hall – that he sometimes makes bold promises in the heat of history but runs into issues with follow-up. This is the second commitment made by Mr. de Blasio in the aftermath of the demonstrations for racial justice which has not yet borne fruit.
On Tuesday, the Citizens Budget Committee reported that opposite to the claim by Mr. de Blasio and the New York City Council speaker that they cut the police department’s budget by $ 1 billion last year, they in fact only cut about $ 300 million.
A spokesman for the mayor said he announced on Thursday an “economic justice plan for June,” which includes the creation of savings plans for every student from kindergarten to public school next year, with the aim of combating racial inequalities. The city plans to put at least $ 100 in each account, at a cost of $ 15 million.
“June marked the end of slavery, but not the end of systemic and structural racism in America,” de Blasio said in a statement. “To begin to repair the damage of the past, New York City is investing in the future and creating generational wealth.”
Alicia Hyndman, the state lawmaker who in 2020 sponsored a law making Juneteenth a public holiday for public servants, called Mr de Blasio a “hypocrite” for breaking his promise to Juneteenth.
“For us it’s our 4th of July,” said Ms. Hyndman, who is black and represents Southeast Queens. “It’s our Independence Day, June 15th. It is important that people understand. This is American history. Here’s how it happened. “
Giving workers an extra day of leave required collective bargaining, in part because unions had to help pay the expenses, the union official said. the publication The City reported in January that unions had not heard from the mayor since he made the announcement.
Juneteenth’s timing was also said to have been a complicating factor. It falls on a Saturday this year – a day when some employees show up for work for regular shifts and others accumulate overtime.
Traditionally, when the holidays fall on Saturday, city workers have the Friday off the day before. City Hall could also have made Juneteenth a floating holiday that workers can use as they please – this year, workers who wanted to celebrate Lincoln’s birthday on February 12th used a floating holiday, for example. example.
“When this happened last year it was very obvious to me that it was a symbolic gesture to try to reverse what was a very negative news cycle for him,” said Olivia Lapeyrolerie, who was Mr. de Blasio’s first deputy press secretary at the time of his announcement Juneteenth and is black.
That summer, Mr. de Blasio was under scrutiny for his management of the police department, whose use of force during protests sparked an uproar.
“It was obvious that this was a public relations move,” she said. “But he’s not even following through on the PR move.”
Mr. de Blasio is taking further steps to demonstrate his commitment to honor Juneteenth. On Thursday, he announced a celebration on Friday June 17 at the James Baldwin Lawn in St. Nicholas Park in Harlem. And this week its Parks Department announced that he was appointing 16 parks for black Americans.
At the height of the protests last summer, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo also seized the opportunity: he signed a Executive Decree at a state capitol press conference that recognized Juneteenth as a public holiday for state employees. His ordinance was followed by Mrs. Hyndman’s legislation, which he signed four months later, making Juneteenth an official holiday.
“It’s a day we should all be thinking about,” said Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat, when he signed the executive order in June 2020. “It’s a particularly relevant day at this time of the year. history.”
Since June 15 falls on a Saturday this year, making it a “statutory holiday” for workers who work weekdays, government employees will be allowed to observe the public holiday on another day of their choosing, under subject to the approval of their supervisors, according to the ministry of civil service.
For her part, Majority Leader State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins declared a holiday in the Senate on Friday, giving staff members leave, a spokesperson said.
Employees of the New York City Department of Education will also have a day off June 17 starting next year as state law applies to schools, the mayor’s office said. .
The holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, when a Union General arrived in Galveston, Texas after the end of the Civil War and informed the slaves that they were free.
The day was first celebrated with prayer, but turned into celebrations among families in backyards, with food playing a vital role and, in some towns, parades and festivals. In New York City, the party will be celebrated over the weekend with ceremonies, art displays, concerts, barbecues, a 5K run, and literary and food festivals.