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MLK Day 2021: What’s open? What’s closed? Who gets off?

Here are a few things to know about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

MLK Day 2021: What’s open? What’s closed? Who gets off?
[Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images]
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Ten months into the pandemic, this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a little different than in previous years: The average human in America is tired from the unrelenting news cycle, yet more aware than ever of racial injustice. Thus, MLK Day invites a much-needed 24 hours of calm between this week’s impeachment trial and inauguration, and a meaningful reflection on today’s Black Lives Matters movement and the Black life at the center of the 1960s civil rights movement. Here are a few things to know about Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Who’s off?

Most years, about half of American workers are on the clock. Only federal employees are entirely off the hook; the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq always follows suit. Nearly all banks and schools also close (though some states allow districts to decide themselves).

What about private companies?

Many private businesses make employees show up on MLK Day. Statistics won’t be in for months, but this year it looks like more Americans will have the day off than usual, for two reasons:

  • Worker bees are exhausted from never-ending isolation and overwhelming family duties and high-stakes politics. Companies are facing burned-out employees, and one of the few ways they can alleviate that is with time off, particularly in fields where it will be a slow business day anyway.
  • The Black Lives Matters movement raised awareness about racial injustice last year. That means many more bosses are likely to observe the holiday that honors King and his legacy. As human resources company Zenefits puts it, “it can be an important show of solidarity to make MLK Day a paid holiday.”

Who’s working?

Staffers of stores and restaurants, many of whom are desperate for business. MLK Day Sales are prolific this year, with steep discounts online. And healthcare workers are as busy as ever.

What else do I need to remember?

Want to put on your mask and run an errand? Most of the places you’d go, such as the post office and DMV, are closed. But UPS and FedEx will be open, and you can still order takeout from your favorite non-chain restaurant.