Dancing breaks out during a Juneteenth rally and protest in Deering Oaks Park in Portland on Friday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The Bangor City Council will vote on making a holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. a paid city holiday for employees.

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19, commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved Black people in the United States at the end of the Civil War in 1865. It appears set to pass the council on Monday, with the panel’s government operations committee unanimously approving it earlier this week.

The goal of the rule change, which was brought forward by city staff, is to provide a day off for most employees and holiday pay for essential employees who need to work that day, Assistant City Manager Courtney O’Donnell said.

While city employees under union contracts have separate rules for holidays, the city plans to work with union leadership to establish Juneteenth as a holiday for them as well, she said.

“Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States,” O’Donnell said in the government operations committee on Wednesday. “I think a lot of folks would say that this holiday has been a long time coming.”

Gov. Janet Mills signed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday last June, closing all non-essential state offices on that day. Court also cannot be held on June 19, and public schools can’t hold classes.

President Joe Biden signed a law making it a federal holiday less than a week later, with all of Maine’s congressional delegation in support.

The city of Bangor policy does not automatically adopt state and federal holidays as city holidays. However, the city takes its lead from the state and federal levels, O’Donnell said.

Events have taken place in Brewer’s Chamberlain Freedom Park, which contains the only official memorial to the Underground Railroad in Maine, in recent years to celebrate the holiday. Last year was the first time it occurred with Juneteenth having federal recognition.

The proposal in Bangor comes after the Houlton Town Council narrowly rejected making Juneteenth a town holiday earlier in the month. Councilors who voted against or abstained primarily cited financial reasons, as the town would have to provide holiday pay to employees who still have to work on that day.

Livermore voted to adopt Juneteenth as a paid holiday on Tuesday.

Several other Maine communities now close for Juneteenth, including Lewiston, South Portland, Greenbush and Jonesport.