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San Diego City Council makes Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees

A man holding a Juneteenth flag at the celebration held by San Diego State University's Black Resource Center, June 17, 2022.
Mike Damron
A man holding a Juneteenth flag at the celebration held by San Diego State University's Black Resource Center, June 17, 2022.

The San Diego City Council Tuesday made Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery, a paid holiday for city employees.

Mayor Todd Gloria recommended the action to the council, with it going into effect June 19, 2023.

"The official acknowledgment and recognition of this significant day in American history is an important step for the city of San Diego," Gloria said. "The ending of slavery is a pivotal moment that should be honored and celebrated.


"I encourage San Diegans to set aside time on Juneteenth to reflect on our country's history, including the parts that are painful, and to help us work towards designing a more equitable future without systemic racism," he said.

On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced to over 250,000 enslaved Black people that they were free by executive decree, two years after the U. S. government had declared them freed.

President Joe Biden signed Senate Bill 475 on June 17, 2021, establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and Gov. Gavin Newsom followed up by signing Assembly Bill 1655 on September 29, 2022, establishing it as a state holiday.

Starting work on the matter in 2021, Council President pro Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe and Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, along with Gloria, were the leading proponents of making the day a paid holiday.

"By honoring Juneteenth in our city, we choose to recognize the insidious history of our country and the sacrifices to achieve freedom for Black Americans," said Montgomery Steppe. "Today, our city made positive strides to realize the fight for true freedom among Black San Diegans."


In San Diego, Juneteenth was only celebrated in an official capacity at City Hall in the form of a presentation through District 4 and the city of San Diego's Black Employee Association.

"It is imperative for us not to forget the stain of slavery and the impact it has had on countless Black Americans," Moreno said. "It is well past due that the city officially recognize the importance of Juneteenth by establishing it as a city holiday so that our employees and communities can better commemorate it with neighborhood celebrations, educational opportunities and family gatherings."

In 2021, the Juneteenth flag was raised outside of the City Hall building for the first time as Gloria, Montgomery Steppe and Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert joined community members in proclaiming Juneteenth in the city.

According to a city estimate, the estimated fiscal impact to the city for Tuesday's actions will be more than $4,250,000.