Does your company honor Juneteenth as a paid holiday? If not, don’t fret- there is still something you can do! Institutions and companies across the nation are honoring Juneteenth as an officially observed and paid holiday on this day, and on all Juneteenths going forward. However, many people are either hesitant to ask their employers to follow suit from fears they will not be heard, or simply don’t know the best way to present such a huge request. This is indeed uncharted territory for many.
Whether working for an institution or agency that is highly bureaucratic, or working in corporate America where company agendas don’t usually align with the those of Black Americans, the quest can seem like an uphill battle and completely out of reach.
But it doesn’t have to be! Earlier this week Kamaria Morris, a Black woman that works for Erikson Institute in Chicago, convinced her employer to not only honor this year’s Juneteenth as a paid holiday, but all future Juneteenths as well.
After tweeting the simple statement that she won the fight, her tweet went viral and inspired people across the country to also push for the same change. Within 24 hours, hundreds of people sent her private messages saying her tweet encouraged them to also ask for the paid holiday and that they, too, won their fights.
In an interview with ABC news, Kamaria said “Every company is under a microscope to be responsible right now. Statements are no longer enough; we want to see actual change.”
There is so much change that needs to happen, but this is a great and timely place to start. Companies should be compelled to honor this holiday in the same way most honor Independence Day.
Melvin Jackson, who works for BNSF Railway, explains the significance of companies both large and small paying tribute to such a sacred day:
“Honoring Juneteenth at work is a sure way to say, ‘Not only do we know the importance of diversity, we celebrate it!’ It should be a paid holiday. We all know that the United States of America wasn’t created by whites alone. We know that slaves fought for their masters’ freedom, only to remain enslaved after the war. We’ve gone to wars on foreign land to defend freedoms that were denied back on American soil. The pride of white supremacy will never admit their hypocrisy. On June 19th, 1865 all Americans knew they were free. There should be just as much pride for Juneteenth as it is for the Fourth of July, if not more!” – Melvin Jackson
It is time for employers agree with such sentiments and take action as well, like Erikson Institute, Target, Twitter and Nike, to name a few. But for those companies who have not made such changes, we can follow behind Kamaria’s footsteps and ask them to step up to the plate.
If your company is not there yet, you too can be an agent of change!
Steps to Ask Your Employer to Honor Juneteenth
Know what you want. Think about what it is you want to happen and write out a statement. Whether you want your company to give all employees a paid day off, or perhaps to celebrate by holding company events that commemorate the holiday, be clear about what you are asking for and why.
Inform Yourself. Research your companies policies and procedures. Make sure you don’t do anything that will violate a policy or put your own job at risk. The goal is to create change in a constructive way.
Get Support. There are times when acting solely and standing alone on a mission are highly effective. If you so choose, don’t be afraid. Be the agent to step up to the plate and ask for change. But there is also strength in numbers. Speak with your coworkers. Collect signatures. Or create a petition. Approach the ask as a united front and provide evidence that multiple people support the mission.
Ask. Present your statement to your employer. Whether you send an email, write a letter, or submit a formal proposal, officially ask. Be professional, compelling and persuasive. Speak about the reason for your ask and explain to your employer why it will be beneficial to the company. Most importantly, let it go on record that the ask was made in writing.
Follow through. Allow your company time to process your ask and think it through. However, don’t submit it and forget it. Follow-up. If your company did not honor Juneteenth this year, continue to ask for it for next year, and the year after next.
Change has to start somewhere, and everyone has the power to play a part. You, too, can be an agent!