With unprecedented speed, Congress approved and Joe Biden signed legislation declaring Juneteenth a national federal holiday. While there was nothing controversial about this move, as many states already recognized the holiday in some fashion, giving it official national holiday status put many states in the awkward position of having less than one business day to clarify their policies on how the holiday would be observed, reports the Associated Press.
Even at the federal level, agencies have had to deal with the issue of essentially the last-second notice of a day off. “Agencies should direct such employees to not report to work on Friday — unless the agency determines that their services are required. If employees are required to work during qualifying holiday hours, they will earn holiday premium pay,” read a memo from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced Thursday.
While federal/state employees get the day off paid, many private contractors working for the federal government suddenly found out that wouldn’t get to work on Friday, and face not getting paid or having to use personal paid time off.
The United States Postal Service, however, couldn’t cease operations on such short notice, reports CNN.
The United States Postal Service is still operating Friday and Saturday on a normal schedule.
While saying it’s “fully supportive” of the legislation and making June 19 a federal holiday, USPS said it’s “not possible to cease the operations of the Postal Service to accommodate an observance over the next 24-48 hours” and that closing “without providing appropriate time” would lead to service disruptions.
Government workers in California will likely have to wait until next year to enjoy a day off.
“It is encouraging to see bipartisan efforts to recognize the importance of Juneteenth. The Governor issues a proclamation each year to celebrate this important day. At the state level, establishing a holiday usually requires legislation and collective bargaining,” explained a spokesperson from California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio said during an interview that his administration still needs to negotiate with the unions about how to pay for “the impact of the holiday.”
In short, the lack of notice about Juneteenth’s declaration as a federal holiday was a logistical nightmare for various entities, public and private, to figure out the impact of the holiday on their workforce, and the costs those decisions would incur. The last federal holiday to be created was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was signed into law on November 2, 1983, giving all affected agencies and businesses eleven weeks to sort out everything involved in observing a federal holiday.
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For sure, Congress had nothing but good intentions in passing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, but failed to acknowledge the logistical aspects of getting it done so close to the day of observance.