The Erie County Legislature has approved a resolution that calls for Juneteenth to be made an annual observed Erie County government holiday and urges the Erie County Executive to act to designate Juneteenth as an observed holiday.
“The time has come for Erie County to formally observe Juneteenth,” said Erie County Legislature Chair April N. M. Baskin. “It’s an official holiday for the federal government, New York State and the City of Buffalo, and has been an essential part of life in Buffalo and Western New York for decades, thanks to the community leaders who founded the Juneteenth Festival.”
The measure urges County Executive Poloncarz and Gary Wilson, Commissioner of Labor Relations, to negotiate the terms of Juneteenth becoming an observed paid county holiday for county employees with the county’s collective bargaining units, provided there is no loss of any other observed holidays or rights for County employees. The leaders of most of the County’s collective bargaining units (CSEA, AFSCME, Sheriff PBA, CSEA Correctional Officers, and NYSNA signed a letter to the County Executive in October 2020 (attached) supporting the designation of Juneteenth as an observed Erie County government holiday.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States and has become a national day of celebration, parades, picnics, and prayer events, and Buffalo’s celebration is one of the largest in the nation. A renewed push for greater understanding of Black History came in the wake of a series of brutal assaults on African Americans in 2020. Governor Andrew Cuomo named June 19, 2020, as an observed state government holiday for State employees and starting in 2021, and Juneteenth became a paid holiday for City of Buffalo employees beginning in 2021. Most notably, President Joseph Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a new annual federal holiday and established the federal observance of the new holiday immediately on Friday, June 18, 2021.