Juneteenth is no longer an official city holiday

The Juneteenth Parade makes its way down 52nd Street in West Philadelphia in June 2019 where it was being held for the first year after moving from Center City. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

The Juneteenth Parade makes its way down 52nd Street in West Philadelphia in June 2019 where it was being held for the first year after moving from Center City. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.

Juneteenth is no longer listed as an official city holiday.

This comes after Mayor Jim Kenney used a one-time executive action in 2020 to designate the June 19 celebration, commemorating the abolition of slavery in the U.S., an official city holiday for the first time.

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City employees will not receive comp or administrative leave time for Juneteenth, which falls on a Saturday this year.

Jim Engler, Kenney’s chief of staff, said the administration was negotiating with the city’s four major labor unions to include Juneteenth among other observed holidays in their collective bargaining agreements going forward.

The mayor hasn’t ruled out using another executive action to observe Juneteenth this year, Engler said. The collective bargaining agreements for the city’s major unions sunset on June 30 — after Juneteenth.

Michael Bresnan, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 22, said the mayor set a precedent last year by designating Juneteenth a new city holiday so his union was fighting to keep it that way without making concessions.

“It’s sort a slap in the face to African-American members to take the holiday away,” Bresnan said.

Cathy Scott, president of AFSCME District Council 47, said in an email that the union “supports making Juneteenth an additional holiday.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 does not comment on contract negotiations, said police union spokesman Mike Neilon in an email.

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AFSCME District Council 33, another major city union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A source inside City Hall said the city is angling to replace an existing observed holiday, such as Columbus Day, with Juneteenth so as not to negatively affect the city’s budget.

Kenney designated Juneteenth an official city holiday last year as protests and civil unrest were ongoing in the city and U.S. following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer. City offices and facilities were closed, and trash pickup was delayed that day, which was a Friday.

The Kenney administration said in a released statement at the time that it would “pursue all necessary steps to ensure Juneteenth continues to be an official City holiday in Philadelphia for years to come.”

The School District of Philadelphia will observe Juneteenth this year on June 18, a Friday, by closing schools and administrative offices. (The last day of the school year for students is June 11.)

In 2019 Gov. Tom Wolf designated June 19 as Juneteenth National Freedom Day, creating a state holiday for employees under the governor’s jurisdiction.

Juneteenth dates to 1865 (more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was in effect) when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger brought news to Galveston, Texas, that the war had ended and issued General Order No. 3, stating that all slaves were free. Regional celebrations of Emancipation Day, or Juneteenth, took place the following year and spread throughout the Union.

Gary Shepherd, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Juneteenth Initiative, which puts on the city’s annual Juneteenth parade and festival, called for making Juneteenth an official city holiday.

“An official holiday every year in Philadelphia would bring to light some of the true history that has been hidden in the past,” Shepherd said.

“It’s very, very important that all citizens know and recognize what happened on June 19, 1865: That’s when all citizens of the United States became free and that should officially be celebrated as True Freedom Day.”

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