SEIU 1021

San Joaquin County members take the fight for Juneteenth to the board of supervisors


Tuesday, May 2, rows of SEIU 1021 members holding signs saying, “San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors: Adopt Juneteenth! Black History is American History” filled the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors meeting.

“As a multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural labor movement, we fight for everyone,” said Taffie Walter, president of the San Joaquin County chapter for SEIU 1021 and vice president of Region E, covering San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Amador counties. “Our union, SEIU 1021, representing over 5,000 employees of San Joaquin County, seeks to unite people—no matter who we are, where we come from, or whom we love.”

“In 2021, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors made a show of a declaration acknowledging Juneteenth but stopped short of officially adopting it,” Walter continued. “It is time we rise up to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for all San Joaquin County employees.”

Juneteenth commemorates the date Union Major General Gordon Granger delivered General Orders Number 3 to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, more than two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. The order instructed Black people to “remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages.” Black people took that opening to demand total freedom.

“It goes by many names,” expressed Monique Baca, secretary for the San Joaquin County chapter and member of the SEIU 1021 Executive Board Budget and Finance Committee. “Whether you call it Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or the country’s second Independence Day, Juneteenth is one of the most important anniversaries in our country’s history.”

San Joaquin County members have been campaigning for several months to win Juneteenth as a paid holiday. To build support, the chapter circulated a petition, collecting signatures from 1021 members across San Joaquin County to showcase worker power and unity. Speaking during public comment at the Board of Supervisors meeting was the next step in escalating the campaign to win Juneteenth. 

“Juneteenth also allows us to talk about how the founding principles—perfect principles espoused by imperfect people—and our constitutional order led this republic to ultimately fight against and reject slavery and, later, against segregation,” said Connie Layman, the San Joaquin County chapter parliamentarian. “By having more complete discussions with our young people about such a critical part of our history and by teaching it factually but within the context of American idealism, we can wrest this issue from those who constantly try to use race as a wedge to divide Americans. Every nation has scars from its past, but we can use Juneteenth as a way to acknowledge our past faults, help heal current divisions, and move toward a future as a nation more united. Thank you for your time.”

Following the action at the board of supervisors meeting last week, the San Joaquin County chapter will work on securing the item to be formally brought up on the agenda at a future meeting, and board members will then vote on the issue.