DuPage considering whether to make Juneteenth a county holiday

  • Some DuPage County officials are proposing the county's nearly 2,200 employees be given a paid day off on Juneteenth next year. Others say the county should focus on educating the public about the holiday.

    Some DuPage County officials are proposing the county's nearly 2,200 employees be given a paid day off on Juneteenth next year. Others say the county should focus on educating the public about the holiday. Courtesy of College of Lake County

 
 
Updated 6/26/2020 7:43 PM

DuPage County officials are considering how to celebrate Juneteenth going forward.

Some are proposing the county's nearly 2,200 employees be given a paid day off on Juneteenth next year. Others say the county should focus on educating the public about the holiday, which marks the anniversary of the day when the last slaves learned of their emancipation -- June 19, 1865.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I think everybody has learned and appreciated the significance of this moment in history," DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said. "It is certainly a very important moment in history that should be celebrated."

The question board members are trying to decide is whether to add Juneteenth to the county's holiday schedule for 2021. Right now, county employees are expected to get 11 days off next year for holidays, including Presidents Day, Columbus Day and the day after Thanksgiving.

Board members started talking about the issue this week but postponed the discussion until next month.

The idea is being proposed by board member Elizabeth Chaplin. The Downers Grove Democrat says it would be "a great opportunity to show some leadership."

Chaplin says it's important for everyone to learn about Juneteenth.

"We've come a long way," she said, "but there's still a lot of work that we have to do to make sure everyone is treated equally and fairly."

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During the discussion this week, some concerns were raised about the cost of adding a 12th holiday to the county's schedule. It would cost the county roughly $40,000 more in overtime to make the day a holiday; the normal daily payroll for the county is roughly $791,000, officials said.

There also are questions about whether employees who work in the courthouse could take the day off if it's not a state holiday. But Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he plans to make Juneteenth a state holiday.

As for the cost, board member Mary FitzGerald Ozog is suggesting DuPage drop the day after Thanksgiving as a holiday so county workers could take Juneteenth off.

With what the country is going through right now, the Glen Ellyn Democrat said, "this is a very important way that we could lead."

Still, Cronin said he doesn't know if county workers taking the day off is the most effective way to honor Juneteenth.

"I guess I would be in favor of celebrating it," he said, "and really focusing attention on it and taking the opportunity to teach ... about what Juneteenth actually means."

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