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Aldermen propose paid city holiday to commemorate Juneteenth

City employees already get more paid holidays than their counterparts in private industry. Aldermen Maria Hadden (49th) and David Moore (17th) want to add June 19th to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

Rookie Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) (upper left) and Ald. David Moore (17th) (bottom middle) want to make June 19th a paid city holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
Rookie Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) (upper left) and Ald. David Moore (17th) (bottom middle) want to make June 19th a paid city holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The cash-strapped city of Chicago has been roundly criticized over the years for granting city employees far more paid holidays than their counterparts in private industry.

If Aldermen Maria Hadden (49th) and David Moore (17th) have their way, the city would add yet another: June 19th.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Hadden and Moore introduced an ordinance requiring City Hall and other local government buildings to be closed on the date known as “Juneteenth” to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

“It is not enough for the city of Chicago to just have parades, barbecues and events celebrating Juneteenth. Chicago must recognize Juneteenth as an official city holiday, which will help support the campaign to recognize ‘Juneteenth National Freedom Day’ as a national holiday,” the preamble to the ordinance states.

The ordinance notes “millions of African-Americans fled to” Chicago “in two migration waves” and “shaped the face” of the city “through blood, sweat and tears.”

“Despite segregation and denial of fundamental rights, Chicago politics, entertainment, sports and civic life have all been impacted by the strength and heart of these descendants of enslaved people,” the ordinance states.

“A city founded by Jean Point du Sable, an African descendant, the home of Barack Obama, the first African-American President, and now led by its first African-American lesbian mayor can serve as a symbol and vessel that pushes this [national holiday] campaign forward.”

Already, city employees get 12 paid holidays: New Year’s Day; the birthdays of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and George Washington; Casimir Pulaski Day; Memorial Day; July 4th; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Veteran’s Day; Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

The cost of one more city holiday was not immediately known.

The ordinance was co-signed by 18 aldermen, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader.

It comes as Black Caucus members also are pushing to at least begin a politically volatile debate about granting some form of reparations to Chicago descendants of slaves.