Juneteenth may be Bexley observance, but not paid holiday

Chris Bournea
ThisWeek
City of Bexley

Rather than advance legislation that would designate Juneteenth as a paid holiday for city employees, Bexley City Council is considering an alternative resolution that would recognize the day each year without providing paid leave. 

Council voted 7-0 at its Nov. 10 meeting to approve member Jen Robinson’s motion to withdraw Ordinance 39-20, which, if approved, would have made Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees.

The observance recognizes June 19, 1865, as the date on which slavery legally ended in the United States, when the last enslaved African Americans were emancipated in Texas, according to Juneteenth.com, a website documenting the history of the day. 

To replace Ordinance 39-20, Robinson introduced Resolution 12-20, which, if approved, would recognize June 19 as an annual observance in Bexley but without making it a paid holiday for city employees.

Robinson said she decided to withdraw the ordinance and submit Resolution 12-20 after extensive discussions with community members about the best way to observe Juneteenth.  

“A lot of people supported the effort, but some thought perhaps it is not the best time to mark this day as a paid holiday,” she said. “Conversations led to a resolution to allow us to recognize this day as a city (and the) history of the African-American community in our city and beyond.” 

Juneteenth is not recognized as an official holiday by the federal government. Observances vary by state, ranging from community festivals to paid holidays for government employees, such as in Texas, where the state legislature voted in 1980 to make it an official state holiday. 

Robinson said another factor in replacing Ordinance 39-20 with Resolution 12-20 is possible action by the Ohio General Assembly on Senate Bill 334, which would declare Juneteenth a paid state holiday in Ohio. State Sens. Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, and Hearcel F. Craig, D-Columbus, introduced the bill in July. 

In addition to S.B. 334, state Rep. Juanita Brent, D-Cleveland, introduced a resolution in the Ohio House of Representatives in June urging the U.S. Congress to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday. Also in June, Franklin County commissioners announced that beginning in 2021, the county will replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth as a paid holiday for county employees. 

A third reading and vote on the resolution could come as soon as Dec. 1.

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