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June 17, 2022 — You may have June 20 off work in recognition of Juneteenth, but what do you know about the new federal holiday? 

On June 19, 1865, a major general in the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation and free the last enslaved Americans in Texas from bondage. That day became known as Juneteenth. 

“Juneteenth marks both the long, hard night of slavery and subjugation, and a promise of a brighter morning to come,” said President Joe Biden in a speech on June 17, 2021. “By making Juneteenth a holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel.” 

We have come a long way since the 1800s – but more needs to be done to close the racial wage gap and combat racial inequality and discrimination in areas like employment, housing, entrepreneurship, education, and health care. 

The role of unions 

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), unions help close wage gaps for Black and Hispanic workers.  

“Collective bargaining lifts wages of black workers closer to those of their white counterparts,” the EPI stated. “Unionized black workers earn even more in some sectors. Unionized black construction workers in New York City earn 36.1 percent more than nonunion black construction workers in New York City.” 

EPI quotes the late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka as saying, “the labor movement is the most integrated institution in America.” The article goes on to state that “labor leaders are calling for broad and sustained attention to addressing racism and sexism where they continue to violate labor’s democratic ideals.” 

PEF has your back 

As a union, PEF has taken the issue of discrimination seriously and, per the contract, has formed a Joint Affirmative Action Advisory Committee (JAAAC) to focus on situations where a member or group of members feel they are being illegally discriminated against or harassed.   

RELATED: If you experience discrimination, PEF will help you fight it

If you feel you are being discriminated against, let us know. Visit this link to access a form to report the issue to the JAAAC.