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Jackson County adopts Juneteenth as paid holiday

End of slavery in America celebrated June 19

By a 2-1 vote, Jackson County commissioners this week adopted Juneteenth as a paid holiday for county workers — giving them the day off June 19 every year to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.

Jackson County joins the state of Oregon and the federal government in recognizing the day as a paid holiday. The two higher levels of government adopted the holiday for their workers in 2021. Most other states also recognize Juneteenth, although not all have paid holidays for their workers.

Commissioners Rick Dyer and Dave Dotterrer voted to add the holiday, while Commissioner Colleen Roberts voted against the move.

“It’s definitely worth celebrating liberation and freedom,” Roberts said.

But she said government workers already get more paid holidays than most workers in the private sector. She said private sector workers are struggling to pay for gas to get to work, put food on the table and afford other rising expenses. Adding more perks for government workers seems out of touch, she said.

Roberts said she’s heard of proposals to add more government paid holidays, including for election day and to celebrate women gaining the right to vote.

“I share your concerns about at some point you have so many holidays that they do start to lose their significance,” Dotterrer said. “On the other hand, I think this is a very, very important one.”

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, commemorates the day — June 19, 1865 — when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of the Civil War and slavery.

Although President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring freedom for all people held as slaves more than two years earlier, many slave owners withheld the information and continued to hold people captive. Juneteenth emerged as an annual celebration in Texas starting in 1866 and spread around the country, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Dyer said slavery was one of the great injustices in American history.

He said commissioners have to act with fiscal responsibility, but honoring Juneteenth and what it stands for is important, too.

“It’s something done on the federal and state level. For us to be a part of that, too, symbolizes our acknowledgment of the importance of the event,” Dyer said.

Jackson County will spend an estimated $100,000 annually to cover overtime costs for workers who get the holiday but have to work anyway, County Administrator Danny Jordan said.

Some departments, such as the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, have to operate every day, regardless of holidays.

Private sector businesses that offer paid holidays generally cover New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Paid holidays for federal government workers include those days plus Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents Day; Juneteenth; Columbus Day and Veterans Day, according to the 2022 holiday schedule for the federal government.

Some businesses, especially banks, are closed and offer paid holidays that are more in line with government holidays.

Juneteenth is the first holiday to be added to the official federal government list since the recognition for King was adopted in 1983, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.