The U.S. has one of the lowest voter participation rates among modern democracies. One of the most common reasons people give for not voting is that they are too busy with the demands of work and life. With Election Day coming up, employers have an opportunity to play an active role in increasing voter turnout.
Some States Require Providing Workers Time Off to Vote
While there are no federal laws that require employers to provide time off for employees to vote, certain states do require employers to give workers notice about their voting rights and provide paid or unpaid time off to vote. The specifics vary by the state, but in each state, the rules apply to almost every type of employer. You can check AFL-CIO’s website to see how the rules work in your state.
Even if your state doesn’t require your organization to provide time off to workers, it’s a good thing to encourage employees to vote. According to research conducted by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project, about 4 in 10 eligible voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. And voter turnout has historically been lower for midterm elections.
As an employer, you can do your part to encourage workers to vote. In fact, many corporations have teamed up to increase civic participation. One of the driving beliefs here is that large companies have a moral responsibility to use their platform for the benefit of civil society. As Howard Schultz, former Starbucks Chairman and CEO stated:
Now more than ever, we need to elevate to citizenship above partisanship in America, and working to increase voter registration and participation will help more people recognize how much their voices matter. In partnership with like-minded organizations… helping to increase voter turnout at the local and national level is yet another meaningful way to use our scale for good.
Employers are Trying to Increase Voter Participation
At this point, a number of companies have taken steps to ensure that their employees won’t have to choose between voting and going to work on November 6.
Levi’s is one of the bunch. Speaking at the Fast Company Innovation Festival this October, Levi’s president and CEO Chip Bergh told the audience that the company was giving employees up to five hours of paid time off to cast their bullets on Election Day. The company has also asked celebrities and influencers to spread the word about voter registration and has worked with HeadCount to help sign up voters at concerts. Additionally, about 40 Levi’s stores have voter registration booths.
Lastly, Levi’s has teamed up with Patagonia, Walmart, Kaiser Permanente, Lyft and a host of additional brands to launch the “Make Time to Vote” campaign, which has prompted more than 200 companies to grant time off for their employees for the upcoming midterm elections.
They will involve a wide range of programs, including paid time off, days without meetings, and on-site resources for mail-in ballots, or early voting.
A portion of companies with CEOs who are interested in increasing voter participation, for more details, visit www.maketimetovote.org
Companies See Benefits From Being a Leader In CSR
In today’s polarized political climate where trust in institutions is at an all-time low, consumers have begun looking to brands to take the lead in effecting change. When businesses position themselves as champions of civic engagement, they also boost their brand reputations and distinguish themselves as desirable workplaces for employees.
According to a survey conducted in July 2018 and published on TurboVoteChallenge.org, Americans wanted the brands they are familiar with to participate in democracy. If they knew that the company has encouraged people to participate in civic activities, provided information about issues in their community, and distributed resources to help them register to vote, all other things being equal:
- 81 percent of people would recommend the brand
- 76 percent of people would seek work there
- 81 percent of people would buy its products
Many brands have gone beyond promoting non-partisan causes like voting. Gun violence, immigration, same-sex marriage, corporate inclusion, climate change. These are all issues that certain brands have spoken up about. Brands have recognized that to in order to meet employee expectations, and to live up to their stated corporate values, they simply can’t stay on the sidelines.
For example, in addition to Levi’s initiatives around voting in the upcoming election, they’ve stood up to curb gun violence. In 2016, their CEO Chip Bergh wrote an open letter asking customers not to bring guns into Levi’s stores. This September, they put $1 million towards nonprofits and youth activists to continue to double-down on their efforts.
According to Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh, social advocacy has always been Levi’s way. (A few examples: Levi desegregated its factories before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and Levi extends benefits to same-sex couples.) “Having the courage to stand up and take a stand has always been part of our lifeblood,” he said. “It’s who we are. Our employees expect it.”
Workplace policies. Values. Your ability to attract talent. Your reputation in the marketplace. These concepts are all tightly connected. At a time when the competition for talent is fierce, corporate values has become the competitive differentiator for brands. Highly skilled employees are choosing to work for employers who have the vision, mission and values that resonate with them. Giving workers time off to vote is simply one of many ways to align your workplace policies with your values.
If you’re looking to gain better alignment between your corporate values and workplace policies, we have resources to help you make sure that your compensation and benefit packages are reflective of your values and the type of company you want to build. We’ve found that comp and benefits are the biggest drivers of job satisfaction, and often the primary reasons employees seek new jobs. These findings shouldn’t be a surprise: if your employees feel that their organization isn’t treating them well or fairly, they simply won’t take any other well-intentioned policies seriously.
To learn how to connect the dots between your total rewards strategy and your company values, check out these resources: