2021 has been a banner year for proposing new federal holidays. There are still several months to go in 2021 so, while one holiday has been passed into law this year, there is still a chance that federal employees may yet get one more before the year is out.
Most recently, a bill is now pending in Congress for another holiday entitled the September 11 Day of Remembrance Act. If passed into law, the new federal holiday would fall several days after the Labor Day holiday.
Current Pending Proposals for New Federal Holidays
Rosa Parks Day
Several Congressional representatives are proposing a new federal holiday that would be labeled “Rosa Parks Day.” The bill (H.R. 5111) has three cosponsors, all Democrats. It is waiting on a potential vote in the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Since decisions or arguments in favor of a proposal seem to frequently center on issues surrounding race or gender, this issue is no different. One of the arguments cited in favor of the new holiday is “This would be the first federal holiday to honor a woman.”
This holiday would be scheduled for December 1st, based on a press release from the sponsors, as that was the date of the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama. Her conviction and fine is now cited (although others actually preceded her action) as an incident leading to the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, a pivotal event of the 1950s-60s civil rights movement.
For the People Act
Another bill that would create a new federal holiday is the For the People Act of 2021.
Its main purpose appears to be setting up federal rules for elections and overriding election requirements set by individual states.
For federal employees, a point of interest may be creating a new federal holiday which means a day off for most federal employees. Section 1909 of the bill is entitled “Election Day As Legal Public Holiday.” Unlike the title of the bill, this title does what the title implies. It creates a new federal holiday on election day.
This bill passed the House on March 3, 2021, where 222 Democrats were co-sponsors of the bill. It has not been passed in the Senate where the bill (S. 1) has 48 co-sponsors (46 Democrats and two Independents).
The bill is listed as having a 72% chance of passage in the Senate. The For the People Act would create a new federal holiday starting in 2022.
Juneteenth Established in 2021 as a New Federal Holiday
Also in 2021, June 19th was set as a new federal holiday.
It was unclear if this legislation would be passed into law in time to give federal employees the holiday in 2021. Even if it did pass, it was not clear how the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) would address the issue and whether most federal employees would have another day off.
In a tweet, OPM announced the good news as follows:
Juneteenth is now a holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It is also sometimes referred to as Emancipation Day or Juneteenth Independence Day. The name “Juneteenth” is derived by combining “June” and “nineteenth.”
Proposal to Create the September 11 Day of Remembrance Act
The latest proposal in 2021 for a new federal holiday would make September 11th a federal holiday.
The date of the terrorist attacks by Al Qaeda on America on September 11, 2001 resulted in the deaths of approximately 3,000 people.
Twenty years ago, we watched as terrorists brutally attacked our nation. The United States pledged we would never forget September 11, 2001. This legislation will uphold that promise to our heroes.
On September 20, 2021, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) introduced a companion bill in the House to establish the holiday. Congressman Zeldin made this comment regarding the bill:
The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 forever changed our lives, our nation and the world. We all remember exactly where we were, what we were doing, and the emotions of devastation, anger, resolve, uncertainty and unity we felt. As time passes, pain eases, and more and more Americans are either too young to remember or were not yet born, we cannot allow the memories to fade or fail to honor the ordinary Americans who became extraordinary heroes on that September morning and in the years that followed. Making September 11th an official Day of Remembrance will ensure that future generations recognize and appreciate the tragedy, sacrifice and resilience associated with 9/11.
There are currently three co-sponsors in the House for this bill.
Current Federal Holidays
With the addition of the Juneteenth holiday, federal employees now have eleven standard paid holidays in a year. This is the current list of federal holidays for the federal workforce according to OPM:
- New Year’s Day
- Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Washington’s Birthday
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Veterans Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
This list does not include exceptions such as Inauguration Day which is every four years for federal employees in the Washington, DC area or unexpected holidays such as an extra day off for Christmas Eve.