JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Note: The video above is from a previous related report.)
Juneteenth's celebration of the end of slavery will become a paid holiday in 2022 for City of Jacksonville workers, further expanding the annual commemoration that became a federal holiday this year and has picked up support from some businesses.
City Council voted 16-2 Tuesday in favor of the bill (2021-544) adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday for thousands of city workers.
Council President Sam Newby urged support for the bill as he recalled how a great-uncle did not celebrate Independence Day on the Fourth of July because African-Americans weren't free until slavery ended.
"For a lot of African-Americans, independence is Juneteenth," Newby said. "That's the history of it. That's real, so this day is real important. We as a body should lead and the way you lead is to make this a holiday."
Federal holiday: OnPolitics: Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday
Council members Rory Diamond and Al Ferraro voted against the legislation, saying they agree Juneteenth should be celebrated but not by adding an extra paid holiday for city workers.
"It’s an important day and I think the whole city should be celebrating in it," Ferraro said. "I just didn’t think that it called for employees to have a paid holiday. I would rather see something that goes forward for the citizens."
Diamond said it would be better to negotiate with unions to replace a floating holiday with Juneteenth in their contracts.
Council member Reggie Gaffney said city employees shouldn't have to wait any longer for Jacksonville "to move forward."
"It’s very unfortunate that when it comes to a day of significance to my community that we have a problem," said Gaffney, who is one of seven Black council members.
President Joe Biden signed legislation earlier this year making Juneteenth a federal holiday and a growing number of private companies have added it as a paid day off for their workers.
The city pays about $1.8 million to employees for each paid holiday they receive. That money is already in this year's budget. Above that amount, the city averages about $300,000 to $400,000 in overtime costs for employees who end up working on a paid holiday.
City Council member Randy DeFoor said adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday will result in residents going without $1.8 million worth of services that day. She voted to add Juneteenth as a city holiday but said she wants the council to look next year at all paid holidays to decide which are most important.
“It is a day where no services are going to be given to our citizens, and let me tell you, they’re working," DeFoor said.
Councilmember Brenda Priestly Jackson said the "symbolic support of this is much needed."
She said that when people talk about "services not rendered" during a paid holiday, "My mind immediately went back to two or three hundred years of service rendered through slavery."
Juneteenth has its roots in Texas when federal troops arrived in Galveston in June 1865 and followed through on the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln in January 1863 during the Civil War.
Priestly Jackson said for Florida, that end of slavery didn't come until May 1865, also more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth will be celebrated on June 19, joining paid holidays for city workers on New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington's birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day on July 4, Labor Day, Veterans Day, two days for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
City workers also can take a day off during the year on a date of their choice.
The addition of Juneteenth as a city holiday has Mayor Lenny Curry's support.
Private organizations have been adding Juneteenth as a paid holiday as well. City Council member Kevin Carrico said the Boys & Girls Clubs where he is an executive added Juneteenth as a holiday. The Jaguars did the same in 2020.