Mid-June 2020 saw racial tensions, born from the police murder of George Floyd, reach a bitter peak. The city of Minneapolis released early 911 calls, made by first-responders privy to Floyd’s death. Calls for police reform, defunding, and abolition continued. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on police reform, which sought to further fund U.S. police departments.
The cornerstone of this civil unrest, of course, were the protests. The turnout against police brutality and in honor of George Floyd reached record highs on June 13 and 19. Civis Analytics, a data science firm, estimates that in the United States alone, 15 million to 26 million people participated in June 2020 demonstrations regarding Floyd's death.
Like every industry at the time, HR was ushered under a critical race theory microscope. Many companies, including heavy hitters like Google, Mattel, Disney, and Snap, pledged to diversify their employee base from the top down. Diversity professionals were thrust to the forefront of workplace dialogues. But perhaps the icing on the D&I cake came when press teams and CEOs eagerly announced that their companies would now celebrate Juneteenth.
The holiday was formed on June 19, 1865, when still illegally enslaved African Americans were belatedly made aware that Congress had passed the 13th Amendment on Jan. 31, 1865. Speaking about corporate nods to Juneteenth, Miles Dotson, creator of #hellajuneteenth, told HR Dive, "We've seen a lot of opportunities for people to show what side of the future they stand on and we no longer really have to guess where they lie."
The #hellajuneteenth project gives Black workers and their allied employers tangible resources to honor Juneteenth. A key part of this is the #hellajuneteenth database of companies that observe the holiday. Dotson has observed how some companies have been "slow to move" or "quick to move." But what matters, ultimately, is the longevity of D&I initiatives and their impact. "You can frame it as performative in the moment. Over time, you're really able to evaluate where people stand on issues," Dotson said.
Following up on those highly publicized Juneteenth 2020 announcements, HR Dive reached out to see if those big companies were keeping their promise to Black employees in 2021.
Allstate made Juneteenth an annual company holiday in 2020 to "give Allstaters the opportunity to reflect, learn and engage in their communities," Allstate spokesperson Mallory Vasquez told HR Dive. Juneteenth will be observed on June 18, 2021.
Tobacco group Altria announced that it would celebrate Juneteenth as a "Day of Healing," in order to better support its Black employees. "We provided Juneteenth off last year and will do so again this year," Steve Callahan, managing director of communications at Altria, told HR Dive. "We encourage employees to use this time to reflect, to heal, to volunteer, to be with their friends and family — however they choose." Juneteenth, observed this year on June 18, 2021, is a paid day off.
Lyft recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday in 2020, and provided educational resources about the intersections of race, infrastructure and transportation. Juneteenth will be observed on June 18, 2021, confirmed Ashley Adams, a communications manager at Lyft.
Last year, MasterCard recognized Juneteenth as a companywide "Day of Solidarity." Will O'Connor, senior vice president of communications for the financial services company, told HR Dive, "We continue to offer employees globally the day for service, learning or reflection, as we did last year." Juneteenth will be observed on June 18 this year — or June 17 for the international branches that don't work on Fridays.
In 2020, Nike cemented Juneteenth as a paid annual holiday for its employees in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. "Across our Nike, Converse, and Jordan family, we will close our corporate, retail, manufacturing and distribution operations in observance of Juneteenth to provide educational opportunities that honor Black history and culture," a Nike spokesperson told HR Dive.
Square & Twitter
Jack Dorsey announced in 2020 that both Twitter and Square would be celebrating Juneteenth going forward. Dorsey's call to action spotlighted the #hellajuneteenth database and encouraged corporate companies to apply.
A Square spokesperson additionally told HR Dive that the payment processor would recognize both Juneteenth and the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (Dec. 2) as paid company holidays — the latter being for Square employees outside the U.S.
Uber & Postmates
Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted in 2020 that Juneteenth would be a paid day off at Uber. Employees were encouraged to spend June 19 "learning, participating in a community action or reflecting on how to make change." Lois Van Der Laan of Uber's global corporate communications team told HR Dive that Uber is "indeed offering a paid day off." This year, June 18 is Juneteenth observed.
This also extends to Postmates, a company that Uber acquired in Dec. 2020. Previously, Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann tweeted about instituting Juneteenth as a permanent, companywide holiday in 2020.
Carin Taylor, Workday's chief diversity officer, credits the Black employee resource group (ERG) at Workday for making Juneteenth a company holiday. "It's a special day off that was brought to us by our [email protected] leadership team, one of our ERGs. So, our employees have extra time to put into our communities, educate others, and reflect," Taylor told HR Dive.
Along with giving employees June 18 off globally, Workday is planning to ring in Juneteenth with historical justice trivia, raffles, a virtual "Ride for Justice" bike ride, and a space on Slack where employees can share their perspectives regarding the holiday.
Dotson has witnessed firsthand that the 2020 fervor around the holiday has stretched to Juneteenth 2021. "We still have people [bombarding] our inbox, trying to be included in the list," Dotson told HR Dive. He said he, along with the #hellajuneteenth team, values this corporate zeal and is impressed by the interest.
"But largely, we think that people are missing the point. It's not about making sure that you're on our list," Dotson said. "It is really just making sure that you're moving the conversation forward, and enacting the proper awareness and acknowledgement in the circles that you're in."