Conn. Unions Prepare To Negotiate For Juneteenth Paid Holiday

Jul 5, 2021
Originally published on July 5, 2021 9:58 pm

Just because Juneteenth is now a federal holiday, that doesn’t mean state and municipal employees automatically get the day off. Rather, union leaders have to negotiate the holiday into contracts. 

Jody Barr, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, said his union has 500 contracts to negotiate over the next year, and he’s hoping lawmakers “do the right thing.”

“So ... we will absolutely make it a priority,” said Barr, whose union represents 30,000 state and municipal employees. “But if the employer, you know, the municipalities step up and do the right thing, it’ll make it a lot easier to recognize and pay tribute like we should.”

For the first time, federal employees had Juneteenth off as a paid day after President Joe Biden signed a bill last month making the anniversary of the end of slavery a federal holiday. But the same can’t be said for state employees and municipal workers. Union leaders say they’ll have to negotiate the day off for their members because Connecticut does not recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. 

Barr said some contracts stipulate that all federal holidays are paid days off, while others include just state holidays and list specific days off.

Carl Chisem, president of the Connecticut Employees Union Independent, said each contract is different.

“There is a cost and something that we would have to consider,” said Chisem, who is a former Middletown Common Council member. “Depends on the type of work, and you know, when you need the employees at what time, you know, and that’s going to depend on every agency within a municipality.”

Chisem and Barr said their jobs would be easier if legislators made Juneteenth a state holiday. Gov. Ned Lamont has said he is on board with the idea.

“When it comes to state employees, it’s something that we have to negotiate ... but we’ll work that through over the next few months,” Lamont said. 

Barr said he’s heard nothing from lawmakers about the issue.

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