As companies expand their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs, it’s important that they observe Juneteenth, the annual holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Retail businesses must take extra care to not only understand the cultural significance of the holiday but also find ways to celebrate Juneteenth with their employees, something that may feel tricky with hourly workers.
Juneteenth, which is a portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth”, dates back to June 19, 1865 when General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas that the Civil War was over and that those who were enslaved would now be free.
Many states and cities recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday and senators from Texas and Massachusetts are currently working to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
While Juneteenth is not yet recognized as a federal holiday, that doesn’t mean that businesses can’t make it a paid company holiday. While this may be more feasible for companies that largely hire exempt employees, it’s not totally out of the question for businesses with a high volume of retail workers.
Last year, Target announced that while their stores and distribution centers would remain open on Juneteenth, those working on that day would receive time-and-a-half pay. Additionally, all eligible Target team members would be allowed to take Juneteenth off and receive full pay. While giving employees the day off on Juneteenth is certainly the gold standard when it comes to celebrating in a retail environment, Target’s choice to pay workers extra shows an understanding of the significance of the holiday.
One of the many joys of Juneteenth is all of the great food! Most Juneteenth foods are red, a motif which according to Professor Fred Opie can be traced back to the traditions of West African peoples like the Asante and Yorubas who would offer the blood of animals on special occasions.
Traditional Juneteenth foods include strawberry soda, red velvet cake, and Big Red soda. Additionally, many people also enjoy barbecue dishes on Juneteenth. Retail employers that can’t offer employees the day off should consider catering a Juneteenth-themed meal in the breakroom for those working on the holiday. With so many iconic foods, Juneteenth offers an interesting and exciting menu that will allow employees to celebrate and keep their bellies full! Plus, who doesn’t love free food!?
Perhaps the easiest way to observe Juneteenth at a retail company is by donating to worthy organizations that support the Black community. If you’re unable to give employees the day off or close early, consider donating to causes that reflect your company’s commitment to DEI and/or local organizations that are planning Juneteenth celebrations. Don’t forget to let your employees know about your donations so they can have insight into how you’ve chosen to observe this very important holiday!
Celebrating Juneteenth with retail employees requires planning and a bit of creative thinking. We hope the tips outlined in this blog post aid you in your ideation process when it comes to celebrating Juneteenth with your employees this year!
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