Brands are getting politically involved — in a nonpartisan way — by encouraging employees to vote in the midterms.
In September, a group of retailers signed a letter announcing their commitment to encouraging employees to vote in the midterm elections. While it’s a tidy way to signal civic-minded values to shoppers, the project does tackle a real issue: Scheduling conflicts are one of the top reasons why people don’t make it out to the polls on Election Day.
In the United States, there is no federal law mandating that businesses give their employees time off to vote, so the rules vary state by state. For example, Colorado requires that employers allow up to two hours of paid time off for staffers who give notice, unless they already have time to vote. Other states, including Delaware and Florida, have no specific laws on giving time off to vote. (In many states, early voting is another option.)
Of course, finding time to vote is more or less challenging depending on your job and life commitments. Office workers who have greater latitude to set their tasks for the day may find it easier to take off for a few hours than retail employees who can’t leave a store unattended.
The retailers that pledged themselves to the “Time to Vote” campaign have various approaches to encouraging employees to vote. Some are simply making it clear that staffers can talk to their managers about shifting their schedule around, while some are changing their store hours altogether on Tuesday.
Below, reps for a handful of those brands explained to Vox exactly how they’re enabling employees to vote.
Patagonia: Closing all of its US stores on Election Day, as well as its distribution center in Reno and headquarters in Ventura, California.
Levi’s: Corporate employees will get off five hours to vote, and store employees get three hours of paid time off to vote (this has to be scheduled in advance).
Eileen Fisher: Corporate locations will have a two-hour delay, opening at 11 a.m., and all retail stores will open two hours late. Distribution center employees who usually start at 7 a.m. can come in two hours late or leave two hours early. Customer service employees will be assigned a shorter shift, allowing them two hours of paid time off to vote.
North Face: For the first time ever, employees will get paid time off — three hours of it — to vote. North Face is also offering flexible scheduling that day.
Sweetgreen: Team members are “encouraged to speak with their hiring manager to adjust their schedule.” The salad chain has also added educational resources about voting laws and state deadlines (in both English and Spanish) to its internal employee platform and posted them in the back rooms of Sweetgreen locations.
La Colombe: Headquarters employees can leave any time during the day to go vote. Hourly employees in cafes and roasting facilities are encouraged to talk to their managers to find a time to go vote.
Retailers including Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nordstrom, and Walmart — as well as brands like Sonos, Kind Snacks, and Lyft — also signed the letter.
Consumer brands often shy away from making political statements, lest they alienate any segment of their customer base, but retailers have demonstrated an increasing willingness to get political since President Trump’s election. Patagonia, a company with a long history of environmental activism, sued the Trump administration over its decision to reduce the size of Bears Ears National Monument, and Nike, in casting Colin Kaepernick in one of its recent ads, backed the NFL player in his controversial decision to kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
But taking on the issue of voter turnout during the midterm elections offers brands a seemingly nonpartisan way to involve themselves with politics. Who can argue with that?