SEATTLE — Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, is likely to become an official paid holiday for King County employees, under legislation advanced by the Metropolitan King County Council on Tuesday.
A County Council committee, made up of every member of the County Council, voted 5-1 to add Juneteenth to the county’s slate of 10 paid holidays, The Seattle Times reported. The full County Council still must approve the legislation.
Celebrated on June 19, Juneteenth marks the day that Union soldiers arrived in Texas in 1865 and announced all enslaved people had been freed. The Emancipation Proclamation had, on paper, freed enslaved people over two years before, but the news, and Union soldiers to enforce the change, had not reached Texas.
The holiday is the most recent effort from local lawmakers to make changes in response to mass protests against systemic racism that have dominated the country over the past two months.
The County Council also moved last week to strip power from the county sheriff’s office.
Washington is already one of 47 states that recognizes Juneteenth as a holiday, but it is not a paid day off. This year, Virginia, New York and the city of Portland made Juneteenth a paid day off for government employees.
Making Juneteenth a paid holiday for the county’s approximately 15,000 employees will cost about $4.8 million a year, according to a county analysis, mostly in overtime costs for bus drivers, correctional officers and other employees who will need to work on the holiday.