A growing number of U.S. companies are pledging to give workers time off to vote in the presidential election this November, an effort that’s gaining steam despite the government’s reluctance to make Election Day a federal holiday.
Starbucks said Thursday it will give its 200,000 U.S. employees flexibility on Election Day, encouraging them to plan ahead with managers and schedule time to vote or volunteer at polling places. The Starbucks app will also help customers learn how to register to vote, the company said.
Walmart says it will give its 1.5 million U.S. workers up to three hours paid time off to vote. Apple is giving workers four hours off. Coca-Cola, Twitter, Cisco and Uber are giving employees the day off.
“No American should have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting,” said PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman.
The idea isn’t entirely new. General Motors, Ford and FiatChrysler have given employees the day off to vote since 1999, when they agreed to the change in a contract with the United Auto Workers union. Patagonia gave its workers the day off starting in 2016.
But this year, the idea is gaining steam. Six hundred companies, including Lyft, Airbnb and Paramount, have signed on to ElectionDay.org, which asks companies to give employees time off to vote or distribute information on voting, including how to obtain mail-in ballots. It is not clear how many of those 600 are allowing time off versus distributing voting information.
ElectionDay.org — one of several groups asking companies to make voting pledges — is run by Vote.org, a nonpartisan group that tries to increase voter turnout.
In 2018, the first year it was active, ElectionDay.org had 150 companies sign up. This year, it hopes to sign 1,000 by November.
“There is a groundswell of interest coming out for this,” said Nora Gilbert, director of partnerships for Vote.org.
Gilbert said this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and unease about social inequality may be part of the reason companies are taking a stand on voting.