Today is Election Day, which means you've a) voted, b) will vote, c) will abstain from voting, or d) won't vote because you're unable to make it to the polls.
If you're in the A or B camps, then I commend you on caring about the future of your planet, country, state, county, and city. If you're in the C camp, then I urge you to reconsider your position, finding out here what's at stake in your state. And if you're in the D camp, then I'm truly saddened—saddened that we still have a long way to go to helping people like you exercise your right to vote and thus shape your and your neighbors' futures.
The very bad news is that those in the D camp are hardly alone. There are still too many people unable to vote on the first Tuesday in November due to their work schedules, family responsibilities, or both. More than 100 years ago, an Election Day on a Tuesday made perfect sense (when the first Tuesday in November gave farmers enough fair-weather travel time via horse-drawn carriage to get to the nearest voting booths and back before the Sabbath) but today makes little to no sense at all.
As a result, some people have been lobbying to make Election Day a national holiday (like it is in some countries), while others have been pushing to move Election Day to the weekend (like it is in many other countries). Although both ideas are much more sensible than a non-holiday Tuesday vote, both come with their issues.
One issue is money. It's costly for employers to shut down for a holiday; it's also costly, according to some, to move the vote to the weekend. Another issue is who turns out to vote on a national holiday. There are those that say a national holiday would skew the vote to white-collar voters if certain blue-collar businesses have to stay open, like they often do on other national holidays.
And so, it appears that, at the moment, the best that can be done to help more voters in camp D get to the polls is to encourage employers to give their employees time off. Ideally for the entire day, but at least for a couple hours, or however long it takes to vote.
The good news is hundreds of CEOs across the country are doing just that, thanks to an initiative called Time to Vote. The nonpartisan initiative aims to increase voter turnout, improving from the 36 percent of eligible voters who voted in the 2014 midterms and the 60 percent of eligible voters who voted in the 2016 presidential election.
CEOs of Abercrombie & Fitch, Burton, Gap, La Colombe, Levi Strauss, Lyft, Kind, Nordstrom, The North Face, Patagonia, PayPal, Tyson Foods, and Walmart are all participating, offering their employees PTO to vote. A few hundred other companies are participating, too.
Recently, Patagonia's director of global communications and public relations, Corley Kenna, told CNBC, "This campaign is nonpartisan, and it's not political. This is about supporting democracy, not supporting candidates or issues." Kenna also noted that "many of Patagonia's employees wouldn't have been able to vote if they didn't have the day off."
Indeed, there's nothing partisan about encouraging people to exercise their voting rights. And there's perhaps nothing more empowering and important than voting.
Further, what employees increasingly say they want out of their jobs and careers is the ability to make a positive impact, even more than more money. Employees want their work to matter. They want to effect positive change. And they're choosing employers that are offering them these opportunities.
Which makes the perk of PTO on Election Day an easy way for companies to help attract new employees and to send a powerful message to existing employees that they care. And when employees feel valued and cared for, they're more engaged and work harder, more than likely hard enough to make up for any small amount of time taken off to vote. In other words, Election Day PTO makes perfect sense. It's a good business decision for employers.
And so, if you're an employee working at a company that doesn't offer any time off to vote, not even a couple hours, then why not fight for it. Right now. Get your coworkers together and petition your company's decision makers to allow you to take time off to vote. If not during today's Election Day, then in November 2020 and all the Novembers after that (or whenever the Election Day of the future is held).
Likewise, if you're a decision maker, or the decision maker, and your company or team doesn't have an officlal PTO policy for voting, why not turn things around. Also right now. It's never too late to send an email to employees encouraging them to vote, telling them to take time off if they need it but to notify their supervisors (or you) if they do need the time.
It's a simple, inexpensive, extremely important benefit that will benefit you, your employees, and your company, not to mention the effects it will have on your planet, country, state, county, and city.
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