In many countries across the world, election days are either held on weekends, when citizens aren’t working, or, in the case of South Korea, are designated national holidays. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the United States, where weekday elections leave working people and students scrambling to get to the polls after or before their 9-to-5 jobs or classes.
Since the federal government has failed to address this issue, many businesses are stepping up by giving U.S. employees Election Day off. Patagonia is the most outspoken advocate for this practice. The outdoor gear company announced plans to give its employees a paid day on Nov. 6 to vote, including those working at the Shadyside store, and urged other companies to do the same.
In 2016, the company closed its stores, headquarters, and distribution and customer-service center on Election Day as part of its Vote Our Planet initiative.
“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” Patagonia CEO, Rose Marcario, wrote in a 2016 press release.
She goes on to say, “As a business, we have a unique ability to take a stand and choose to prioritize the health of the planet over profit, and I think it’s important we take that opportunity when it truly matters. We want to do everything possible to empower citizens to make their voices heard and elect candidates up and down the ballot who will protect our planet.”
Various movements have stressed the need for companies to encourage their employees to vote, including the Time to Vote campaign, a nonpartisan, CEO-led effort aimed at increasing voter participation. One Pittsburgh-based Time to Vote participant is DICK’S Sporting Goods, which plans to work around employee schedules.
“We are happy to provide flexibility for our teammates to make voting easier and more convenient,” said DICK’S chairman and CEO, Ed Stack, in an official Time to Vote press release. “We encourage everyone at DICK’S to take the time to register and visit the polls.”
ElectionDay.org also asked business leaders to get out the vote by making Election Day a company holiday. The nonprofit, which is an official project of Vote.org, touts numerous companies willing to give U.S. employees paid time off to vote, including Lyft, Etsy, and Playboy.
An ElectionDay.org list now features over 250 companies of various sizes who have committed to the organization’s cause. Among them is Idea Foundry, an Oakland-based nonprofit economic development organization and accelerator that addresses challenges in Western Pennsylvania.