Updated at 4:46 p.m. ET on June 21, 2020.
On Friday, Elon Musk announced that two of his best-known companies, the electric-car manufacturer Tesla and the astronaut-launching rocket business SpaceX, would formally recognize a long-standing American holiday. “Juneteenth is henceforth considered a US holiday at Tesla & SpaceX,” Musk, who is CEO of both, tweeted.
The tweet initially was met with praise and enthusiasm. Juneteenth, a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved people in America that falls on the 19th of June each year, has been commemorated in black communities for generations. In recent weeks, as people protest the police killings of black Americans, an array of institutions and companies have weighed in, making a show of wanting to do better—including designating Juneteenth, which is not a federal holiday, as a paid holiday for their employees.
But then, nearly an hour later, Musk added a small clarification. “It does require use of a paid-time-off day, which is true of many other holidays,” he said, in response to a Twitter user who had applauded Musk for giving his employees a paid holiday.
Ah. So Juneteenth counted as a holiday only if employees used one of their vacation days. In other words, Juneteenth would be just like any other day at the office. When a CEO announces a newly observed holiday at the office, especially with language like “henceforth,” one can fairly assume that he intends that holiday to take the usual form: company-wide, and paid. Musk’s first tweet, thoughtful and well received, now seemed like a misleading and perfunctory gesture.