Minneapolis is considering giving city employees a paid day off for Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.
If the effort succeeds, Minneapolis will join a growing number of employers who are honoring the holiday in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Supervisors in the city's human resources department recommended adding Juneteenth to the list of 11 other paid holidays, saying it would reflect a commitment to diversity and racial equity. They noted, too, that city workers and labor unions have signaled they would strongly support the effort.
Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins, noting that she is a descendant of enslaved Africans, said she believes the change will carry even more significance.
"I don't see this as just a recognition of African Americans who have been emancipated from slavery, but more broadly as America awakening to the oppressive harms that have been enacted upon African Americans throughout the history of this country," Jenkins said during a committee meeting Tuesday morning,
The holiday is traditionally observed June 19. Although President Abraham Lincoln first signed the Emancipation Proclamation intended to free enslaved people in the Confederacy in 1863, it wasn't enforced in many places until after the Civil War ended in 1865.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, told enslaved African Americans that they were free. The next year, people who had been freed marked the occasion with a celebration that grew into the Juneteenth holiday.
Attention surrounding the holiday was renewed after Floyd's death last year. A growing number of corporations, including Target, Best Buy and U.S. Bank, have announced they would begin recognizing Juneteenth as a company holiday.
The city's human resources department estimated the cost of adding the holiday would be "somewhat less than" $300,000. Payroll costs for the city's roughly 3,800 employees run about $1.5 million on a normal day, while costs on a holiday hover around $1.8 million because of overtime and holiday differentials. Some of those costs could be offset by closing some facilities.
The executive committee voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the recommendation. It now heads to the full City Council, which is expected to take a final vote in late May.
Mayor Jacob Frey indicated during Tuesday's meeting that he supports the effort, calling it "the least we can do" to support Black employees who "have been through quite a bit over this last year."
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994