How employers try to drive voter turnout

How employers try to drive voter turnout

Cava, the Washington, DC-based chain of Mediterranean fast-casual restaurants, gives its 1,600 employees two hours of paid time to vote on Election Day this year, if they request it in advance. (Dixie D. Vereen / For The Washington Post)

Former presidents, professional sports teams and pop singers are not the only ones who are calling on Americans to make sure that they have to vote on 6 November. More employers are also playing an increasingly active role in trying to get their workers to vote on election day.

In Cava, the Washington, DC-based chain of fast-food Mediterranean restaurants, the 1,600 employees receive two hours of paid leave to vote on election day this year, if they so request in advance, a nationwide advantage for their employees.

For the first time, the meat company Tyson Foods has launched a company-wide voter registration initiative. Many of his works participate in the registration of employees and provide information on early voting, mismatches and polling stations.

Levi Strauss & Co. has named voluntary "election captains" in each of its offices and distribution centers to register and train workers. It also gives employees, including retail staff, free time to vote.

Many employers have prevailed in elections, calling on workers to vote in recent elections, and some companies have even turned Election Day into a corporate holiday. But in a year when interest in the midterm elections has reached fever pitch, nonprofit organizations that focus on turnout say that there has been a noticeable increase in the enthusiasm and creative approaches that many employers are using this year to increase the number of employees winning the company surveys – either by closing shops or offices, by providing paid leave or flexible working arrangements, or by trying to eliminate voting obstacles, such as: For example, securing the transport of workers or disappointing meetings for the day.

There are also several efforts by companies or nonprofit organizations that have been driving the issue into campaigns this year. More than 135 employers, including Walmart, Gap Inc. and Farmers Insurance, announced a "Time to Vote" campaign in September aimed at raising awareness of what employers can do to give employees time off to be able to choose. This was followed in June by a phone call from Rose Marcario, head of outdoor retailer Patagonia, who made headlines by closing his shops and giving paid work to the workers for Election Day 2016 – which will do so again this year – and encouraging others Employer to follow his lead.

A Vote.org project called ElectionDay.org, launched in March, has now engaged more than 250 employers, including Pinterest and spirits maker Diageo, to sign up for a paid leave or a flexible vacation on election day. TurboVote Challenge, an initiative of the non-party Democracy Works group to encourage employers to increase turnout, said the number of business associates has increased from 18 in 2016 to 40 this year.

"The enthusiasm of our business partners is exceptional for an interim election," said Mike Ward, program director of TurboVote. "If you had asked me in March 2016 what we expected in October 2018, I would have expected far less."

Others said that employers make internal policy changes. "In the past, companies have assumed that this has been done legally," said Colette Kessler, director of partnerships for Vote.org, a nonpartisan group that wants to increase turnout.

Recently, she said in an interview, companies conducted an inventory of their policies and sought creative ways to prevent work excuses that keep people from taking surveys. "The shift that I see is an interest in really understanding what they offer, what gaps they can make in the laws of their states."

A spokeswoman for the online wedding market WeddingWire, for example, said it declared November 6 a day without meetings to "minimize voting barriers". This would make it easier for employees to vote and not be able to use a full calendar as an excuse. (A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that 35 percent of voters surveyed said conflicts with work or school plans were in the way of voting).

There are no federal laws that require employers to grant workers an exemption. State legislations vary, from the fact that there are no laws on the subject, or paid hours off, according to nonprofit Workplace Fairness. However, many have no consequences for non-compliance, and even those states offering paid leave can only demand this if employees do not have enough time to vote before or after work.

Companies and nonprofit organizations cite several reasons for the increased interest of employers. Reasons that go beyond the increased attention of this year's elections. At a time when senior executives are talking about issues such as immigration, climate change and arms control, there is a greater expectation among employees that their businesses will be involved in civic responsibility.

"I think the energy emanating from the staff helps companies to dive a little faster than in the past," said Ashley Spillane, a board member of the Civic Responsibility Project, a nonprofit New Venture Fund project that empowers companies to do so on increasing citizen participation.

Other companies use this effort, in part, to enhance branding messages that they want to send to employees or customers. Minneapolis-based marketing agency Carmichael Lynch, which states that state law allows employees to choose freely without losing their wages, vacation, or holiday time, gives their employees half a day off and adds day-to-day support. Add lines to email Signatures on the Absent / In Office initiative. CEO Marcus Fischer said in an interview that "for his employees, most of whom are millennials, it is further confirmation that you made the right choice by being here."

While such time-out initiatives may be easy for companies with predominantly office workers, this is more complicated for retailers or restaurant businesses with paid service providers if they do not fully close their doors. Still, the Cava restaurant group offers it and tells its employees that they can take two hours off on the day of the election, at the beginning or end of their shift, as long as they have informed their superiors two weeks in advance.

Co-founder Ted Xenohristos said Cava believes it's one of the first national restaurant groups to have such a policy. The cost depends on how many of his employees choose. What counts for him is that they do it.

"As a first-generation American, we're proud to be part of the system," he said. "We wanted to share that with our team members and make it a bit easier for them to vote."

Also read:

The political inclinations of the CEOs can influence the vote of the employees

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