With the presidential election a mere two months away, federal and local officials are still contending with how to get constituents’ ballots collected and counted during the age of Covid.
Anxieties about overloading the already beleaguered United States Postal Service (USPS) have given many citizens pause when it comes to the idea of voting, en masse, by mail. In an effort to encourage participation in the electoral process, brands are stepping up to offer support to local polling places.
Last week, Old Navy announced that it would tap into its massive national pool of 50,000 store associates to help bolster voting, paying them their normal wages to work the polls on Election Day instead of coming into its more than 1,000 national stores for their regular shifts.
In a statement, Old Navy said it will compensate employees who choose to serve in their communities’ polling places with eight hours of pay, and they will also be eligible for compensation through their local jurisdictions.
“Old Navy is leading this initiative, and all employees from Gap Inc. brands are encouraged to sign up,” a company spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We’ve seen a great response so far.”
The company is working with the Civic Alliance and Power the Polls in a country-wide movement to recruit 250,000 new poll workers, ensuring that polling places operate without a hitch on Nov. 3. According to the spokesperson, the company’s stores will also remain open to serve customers on Election Day.
“As a company, we believe that participating in our democratic process is a vital right, and are committed to removing roadblocks so employees don’t have to choose between voting or serving and work,” the spokesperson said. “Our store leaders will work with their teams to accommodate shift coverage and provide up to three hours of paid time off for those not serving at the polls to allow for in-person voting.”
In a statement, Old Navy president and chief creative officer Nancy Green said the apparel chain was intent on honoring its workforce’s “passion for community work.”
“Every voice in this country matters and deserves to be heard at the polls,” she added. “If we at Old Navy can be even a small part of making that process more accessible to the communities we call home, we are on board.”
New York label Tory Burch has also offered a paid day off to any employee who volunteers at the polls this November.
In an Instagram post on Wednesday, Tory Burch, who founded her eponymous brand and serves as designer and executive chairperson, wrote that “the U.S. faces a severe shortage of poll workers” this year to issue ballots, monitor voting equipment, explain the voting process to constituents and tally votes. Limits on the number of voters allowed in polling places due to social distancing guidelines could also contribute to long lines and general chaos on Election Day.
“Sustaining our democracy requires hands-on active participation and the lack of poll workers potentially puts the voting process at risk,” Burch said in a statement provided to Sourcing Journal. “As a businesswoman and a citizen, it is important to me to do what I can to help provide solutions.”
To ensure that its employees are able to get to the polls to vote, the premium label will close all of its U.S. stores at 3 p.m. local time on Nov. 3, along with its corporate offices and distribution centers.
Burch went on to say that supporting voting through encouraging voter registration or giving her workforce the time off to participate in the process has been an important personal goal “for a long time.”
“That said, 2020 is a year where it feels more important than ever to make sure our democracy works the way it should,” she added.
Athletic footwear and apparel giant Nike announced last week that it would celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6 by teaming up with Time to Vote, a nonpartisan, business-led initiative that helps companies promote participation in the voting process within their workforces.
In a statement, Nike said it hoped to ensure that “every employee registered to vote has the access, opportunity and time where needed to cast their ballot.”
Voting laws and processes are subject to variation across the country, the company said, and Nike’s offerings to employees—including time off on Election Day, providing resources for mail-in ballots, and ensuring convenient meeting schedules—will be tailored to each state’s requirements.
“At Nike, Inc., we believe every voice matters and every vote counts,” said Hilary Krane, who serves as the Oregon company’s executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel. “Regardless of their political affiliation, from education and registration to engagement and participation, Nike will work to support them.”
“It feels especially appropriate to make this commitment on the 55th anniversary of the day that our country removed barriers that prevented Black voters from casting their ballots,” she added.