From Alabama to Nebraska, state employees were off Friday for Juneteenth Day in honor of a significant event in history that ended slavery in the United States — but not Florida’s state employees.
Gov. Ron DeSantis wrote a proclamation about the holiday, but didn’t grant state workers a paid holiday off to commemorate Juneteenth Day — the newest federal holiday.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed into law legislation establishing a legal federal holiday for June 19 — “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act.”
Even with short notice, some states were able to manage authorizing a paid day off Friday for their state employees.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday that state workers would be off in honor of Juneteenth.
Ivey, a Republican, said on Twitter: “Upon @POTUS’ (President Biden) signature this afternoon declaring #Juneteenth as a federal holiday, I’ve authorized tomorrow, June 18, 2021, as a holiday for state employees.”
In Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine recognized the holiday by allowing state workers to be off Friday “in observance of the new federal Juneteenth holiday,” according to cleveland.com. DeWine said that Friday “is the day the holiday will be commemorated” because Juneteenth is on Saturday, according to the report.
Nebraska state employees were given the day off as well, according to the Omaha World-Herald. That report stated Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts not only granted “state employees a day of leave in observation of the newly passed federal holiday” but signed a proclamation in honor of the holiday on Saturday.
In Maryland, state agencies and many local offices were off for the holiday, according to The Baltimore Sun.
June 19, called “Juneteenth,” is connected to the Texas history of slavery, according to a legislative analysis. And Juneteenth Day recognizes a significant time in history when the remaining enslaved African Americans in the United States were granted freedom in 1865.
DeSantis’ communication office did email the Florida Phoenix on Friday a proclamation from the governor, saying “Juneteenth is observed annually on June 19 to commemorate the traditional observance of the end of slavery in the United States.”
Florida has yet to establish Juneteenth as a legal state holiday, following the death of George Floyd and other issues surrounding racism and injustices against African Americans.
State Rep. Fentrice Driskell said in a phone conversation with the Phoenix that she is concerned that Florida honors public holidays connected to racism, such as Confederate figures Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and Memorial Day.
“I do think it’s a missed opportunity to tell a new narrative about our state. By choosing not to honor Juneteenth, we made Florida an outlier state…It is troubling to me that we have Confederate holidays but not Juneteenth,” said Driskell, a Democrat representing part of Hillsborough County.
Driskell closed her office Friday in honor of Juneteenth and last year for the holiday, she said. “It just felt like the right thing to do,” Driskell added.
AFSCME Florida, a union representing state workers, is urging the state to “recognize this holiday honoring our freedom as quickly as possible for all of our dedicated state employees,” said spokesman Kelly Benjamin.
–Isaac Morgan, Florida Phoenix