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Corporate America observes Juneteenth: What to know in markets Friday

On Friday, a number of public corporations across a variety of industries will observe Juneteenth as a company holiday.

The date – a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth” – commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. June 19, 1865 represents the day following the end of the Civil War when Union General Gordon Granger informed those in Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the final remaining slaves in the state and country. The holiday was first celebrated by freed slaves in Texas in 1866, and this year is set to be the 155th anniversary of the original date.

Juneteenth, which is not recognized as a federal holiday, will be commemorated this year by a host of public companies, either as a paid holiday or a day during which normal business operations will be changed. These decisions come as the country and corporate America face a reckoning over racial injustice, with nationwide protests over police brutality and other issues contributing to and reflecting the impacts of systemic racism continuing since late May.

In tech, Alphabet-owned Google (GOOG, GOOGL) recently added Juneteenth as a U.S. holiday in its Google Calendar, and the company instructed its employees to cancel meetings on the date in observation.

Jeff Bezos, CEO of peer tech giant Amazon (AMZN) also sent a memo to employees this week to encourage workers to cancel meetings Friday. Twitter (TWTR) and Square (SQ) – each co-founded and led by CEO Jack Dorsey – will both observe Juneteenth as a paid company holiday starting this year. And music streaming company Spotify (SPOT) is also offering workers a paid holiday, and said it would feature Black artists on its “New Music Friday” playlist.

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2020/06/15: Demonstrators hold placards as they march through the streets during the protest. Protests continue against police brutality and racial injustice in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In retail, Nike (NKE) CEO John Donahoe said in a recent memo to employees that Juneteenth would be a paid holiday this year and going forward. The company added in a LinkedIn post that it will close its retail stores, offices and distribution facilities in the U.S. and use the day “for our employees and teammates to educate and connect on the significance of this moment in Black history.”

Target (TGT) will keep stores and distribution centers open, but gave Target team members the option to take the full day off with full pay, with those still working receiving paid time and a half. Headquarter offices will close, and CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement, “Moving now to recognize [Juneteenth] on an annual basis—as a day to celebrate, further educate ourselves or connect with our communities—is one more important action Target can take as a company to help the country live up to the ideal of moving forward in a new way.”       

Best Buy (BBY) said it was giving workers a paid volunteer day for use Friday or later in the year, and would add the date as a formal paid company holiday starting next year. JCPenney (JCP) CEO Jill Soldau also designated the date as a paid holiday in a memo this week, urging employees to “continue to learn, connect with each other, and reflect on how we can move forward and achieve permanent and lasting change.”

Meanwhile, the NFL is also set to recognize the holiday, with the league’s offices closing Friday, according to a memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Multiple teams within the NFL, including the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers, also said they would permanently recognize Juneteenth.

A number of U.S. banks also plan to shut branches and offices early Friday for Juneteenth.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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