Hourly workers — who are disproportionately Black — face a difficult decision every election: vote or work. At some companies, hourly workers who want to vote are forced to use unpaid time off to make their voice heard. When Black people can’t participate in elections our communities feel the consequences in a number of ways: grave disparities in health and other quality of life indicators, police brutality, mass incarceration, and too many other forms of racial injustice.
As a result of staffing shortages and financial challenges exacerbated by the inadequate federal handling of the ongoing pandemic, many counties have decided to close a number of in-person polling places. Limiting the number of polling places led to extremely long lines in primary elections, and is likely to do the same this fall. Because voting experiences have been so unpredictable this year, it’s even more critical that voters have the workplace flexibility needed to adapt. While many workers may successfully vote by mail this year, some workers depend on in-person voting to provide the accommodations they need. A policy that does not protect those employees is incomplete.
Over the past six months, companies like these have declared a commitment to racial justice. This election presents an opportunity to back up those words with real action. AT&T, Albertson's, Amazon, UnitedHealth Group, and Home Depot are some of the largest employers of people of color in the country. Corporate America has the unique ability to make sure that every worker has the chance to vote, and these corporations can do more to protect the rights of the employees who make them so successful. Hourly workers should not be forced to choose between participating in democracy and providing for themselves and their families. Tell leadership at these companies to provide paid time off for their employees to vote.