Seattle County Lawmakers Stall Legislation To Make Juneteenth A Paid Holiday
The bill would allow about 15,000 county employees to observe the day as a paid holiday.
August 27, 2020 at 7:16 pm
After voting on legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a paid county holiday, the Metropolitan King County Council in Washington state has reversed its course on the matter and stalled the edict.
Councilwoman Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a co-sponsor of the bill, voted with Council Chair Claudia Balducci last week to send it back to the committee, WBRZ reports. The councilmembers cited a lack of research as a hindrance to the bill.
The legislation would provide nearly 15,000 county employees a paid day off of work to commemorate June 19, 1865. The day marks the arrival of Union soldiers in Texas and the announcement of freedom for enslaved people.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier but its effects didn’t reach deep south states until after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, according to History.com.
The bill was supported as a response to the upswell of protests following the police killing of George Floyd.Balducci said the Juneteenth bill needs more development before it can be effectively observed throughout the county.
Kohl-Welles said she still “enthusiastically supports” the legislation but believes more consideration is necessary.
Councilmember Rod Dembowski, the legislation’s lead sponsor, told The Seattle Times that Juneteenth should be revered as an integral part of American history and celebrated as such.
“The way I looked at it, was to say we pay folks to celebrate George Washington’s birthday, we pay folks to celebrate Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving,” he said. “I looked at that list and I thought that frankly the liberation of African Americans in America warranted the same or better treatment.”
Though other councilmembers raised financial concerns about the bill when it was approved last month, Dembowski said he voted to support it because there is no price on restoring the dignity of Black people enslaved for hundreds of years.
“This is about humanity and respecting the dignity of a portion of the population in this country that has frankly been put behind and put second and put last for 400 years,” he said. “You cannot, in my view, put a price on it.”
The paid holiday would cost the county about $4.8 million due to overtime for essential workers including bus drivers, correctional officers and other employees who would still be required to work.
As of this year, a total of 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, according to WUSA 9. Texas was the first to officially recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in 1980, and the first state to observe it as a paid holiday.