If you're a business owner, encourage your employees to get out there and vote!

When Businesses Support Their Employees In Voting, It Makes A Huge Difference

Americans' ability to vote is facing its greatest challenge in decades. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, voter laws that vary by state, and uncertainty about whether mail-in ballots will be counted, many Americans are willing to stand in long lines to vote early. Businesses must support their employees as they do this on election day and the weeks leading up to it.

"Voting rules are complicated and vary from state to state, and most people who don't vote say they simply didn't have enough time," said Jim Doyle, President of the Business Forward Foundation. "When employers share reminders, help employees register, and give them time to vote, it makes a big difference."

Suppose you are an employer trying to operate your business at total capacity on November 3. In that case, I understand that your employees missing work to vote may seem like another hurdle to overcome. Fortunately, many resources are available to help you keep your business humming while supporting your employees' right to vote.

Business Forward Foundation, a research, and education organization that analyzes policy issues affecting America's economic competitiveness, have created a national employer toolkit in English and Spanish on how businesses can help their employees vote. It has also made state-level kits in the battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Wisconsin and reports on diversity and inclusion in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which guide helping underserved communities vote.

"We've helped thousands of business owners and have 33 days to go. What pleases us most is how many local organizations are sharing it with their networks," Doyle said when we spoke on October 1." Our measure of success will be how many other organizations share this toolkit with their members and supporters."

Other businesses are taking steps to support their employees in voting. For example, Levi Strauss & Co., Patagonia, and PayPal have launched Time to Vote, a nonpartisan, business-led coalition with the mantra, "Workers shouldn't have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting." More than 1,000 companies representing more than six million workers in the United States have joined this coalition.

"Businesses have a responsibility to step up and take a stand on matters that are shaping our collective future and be guided by taking internal and external action on their mission, vision, and values," said a PayPal spokesperson. "This year's election faces a unique set of challenges and threats and has brought to the forefront the role businesses can play to protect democracy for all people."

For businesses to participate, a CEO or company leadership must pledge to take steps to ensure their employees have the time to vote. The pledge is open-ended and gives employers the leeway to manage restrictions and guidelines that may influence how they support their workers.

In addition, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) has created resources for businesses to get out the vote (GOTV) and a pledge for businesses to promote election participation. Those who sign the promise have to commit to at least one of the following four actions:

  1. Provide paid time off for workers to vote

  2. Give a full day of paid time to work the polls

  3. Offer nonpartisan information to all employees on voter registration and deadlines by state

  4. Send a company-wide email to workers with all election information needed

"Businesses must support participation in our democracy. Therefore, we call on businesses to engage their employees and the public to increase registration and turnout for the 2020 elections," said ASBC co-founder and President David Levine. "ASBC believes voting is an indelible part of doing business in the U.S. as it strengthens accountability in public policy and primacy of the rule of law, legitimacy of the American public and private institutions, and an inclusive and equitable economy."

Another point of reassurance is that there is no "one size fits all" to support employees' right to vote. Businesses of all sizes and industries can take part.

"Time to Vote hopes to inspire a culture change across corporate America," said a PayPal spokesperson. "Over time, we hope this movement will grow and grow until it takes on a life of its own. Eventually, we hope that having time off becomes part of the normal rhythm of the election cycle across businesses all over America."

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