American businesses, from fashion to tech to retail, are endeavoring to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and embracing new ways to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery.
Also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, Juneteenth celebrates the day news of emancipation reached formerly enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865. This year, the holiday has taken on new importance as protests against systemic racism take place across the country sparked by the killing of George Floyd.
Here are some of the ways businesses have raised awareness of Juneteenth throughout their own organizations:
J. C. Penney
In a letter to employees, J. C. Penney CEO Jill Soltau called the death of George Floyd “horrific” and pointed to the recent shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta as evidence there is still work to do.
“As many of you know, J. C. Penney’s original name was The Golden Rule,” Soltau wrote. “James Cash Penney’s founding principle was that we must treat others as we want to be treated.
Soltau said she has spent the last few weeks talking with Penney’s associates, and that executives have held “open listening conversations” for staff to air any challenges or concerns over the past week.
The company has made Juneteenth an annual company holiday.
Following its pledge to donate $10 million to social justice reform and rebuilding local communities, Target will also recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday for the first time.
“We recognize that the racial trauma the country is experiencing now is not new, but throughout recent weeks there has been a sense that this time is, and has to be, different,” Target CEO and chairman Brian Cornell said in a statement. “Juneteenth takes on additional significance in this moment.”
Although Target will keep its stores and distribution centers open on Friday, hourly employees will earn time and a half holiday pay, and eligible workers will have a paid day off. Target’s headquarters will be closed.
In a memo sent to workers Tuesday and later obtained by CNBC, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said employees should cancel all meetings on Juneteenth and, instead, reflect on ways to support each other on issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion. The company will provide online learning courses toward this purpose, according to the memo.
Earlier in June, Amazon donated $10 million to organizations supporting racial equality, including the NAACP, National Urban League and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Nike CEO John Donahoe reiterated the company’s commitment to diversity in its team and culture in a letter to employees, noting that he wants the company to be “better than society as a whole.”
Juneteenth will now be observed as an annual paid holiday for all Nike employees, Donahoe said, a decision that came shortly after Nike pledged to donate $100 million over the next decade to social justice and educational causes.
Although stores will be open, Best Buy employees will have the option to take Juneteenth as a “paid volunteer day.” If an associate does opt to work, they can use the time as a paid day off on any day this year, the company said.
“Starting next year, Juneteenth will become a formal, paid company holiday,” the company said in a statement. “We made the decision to begin this next year only because June 19 is just a few days away, and we wanted to give as much flexibility as possible to accommodate individual schedules.”
Google took a similar approach to Amazon’s when it requested staff reschedule all unnecessary meetings on Friday, according to a memo obtained by Reuters.
Google later confirmed the memo applies to all Alphabet employees company wide.
The National Football League
Even though the NFL has found itself at the center of the racial controversy in recent years, particularly concerning its relationship with former quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took a knee during the National Anthem in protest against racial injustice and was forced from the league for it—the American sports league says it’s standing in solidarity with its players and closing its office on Juneteenth.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said staff should use the day to “reflect on our past” and consider how to work toward a “better future,” according to a memo obtained by CNBC.