Right now in America, there is a big national discussion about making Juneteenth a federal holiday, but did you know that we had one shot in the year 2020 to make Juneteenth a Washington state legal holiday?

Apparently, there was a bill introduced back in January to the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee* during the regular legislative session in Olympia. Some 38 House representatives co-sponsored the bill, HB 2312, making June 19th, better known to African-American communities at-large as "Juneteenth", a paid legal holiday in the state of Washington.

The only problem I have with this bill is that it is only a paid legal holiday for state employees, not everybody else. I also cringed at the fact that it would cost $3,000,000 to cover state workers' wages for the holiday. The bill also does not cover other employers granting their workers a paid day off, nor does it include a day off for schools or higher educational institutions.

Basically, this bill would force any person who is not a state employee to request taking Juneteenth off as an unpaid holiday. That would particularly impact part-time employees who wish to have Juneteenth off as a holiday since they typically do not receive paid wages if their employer observes federal or state holidays.

Congresswoman Norma Smith (R), from the 10th Legislative District, made an interesting quote during the public hearing:

"Many things can be justified in the name of economics...and that we never forget the lessons of that dark place in our history."

As noted in the public hearing, the following individuals signed on to support HB 2312, opting not to testify in person:

  • University of Washington School of Law
  • SCIU
  • Legal Voice
  • Healthcare 1199
  • ACLU Washington
  • Washington Public Employees Association
  • Faith Action Network

*Local Representative Gina Mosbrucker (R) for the 14th Legislative District is a member of the House State Government & Tribal Relations Committee.

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