The confluence of this pandemic, the accompanying economic crisis and the dire state of race relations in the U.S. is jolting more companies into understanding the harsh realities people face day-to-day, many of which can get in the way of allowing them to cast their votes. Now Old Navy is wading into the national voting rights conversation with today’s news — occurring on what happens to be National Poll Recruitment Day — that the brand will pay its retail employees to serve as poll workers on Election Day.
As reported on several outlets including Fortune, this announcement from Old Navy is remarkable because of who qualifies: This opportunity is available to hourly workers only, not for white-collar or executive employees who work for the brand’s corporate offices.
In addition, Old Navy said it would provide shift coverage for employees who need to vote in-person on November 3.
As reporter Rachel King of Fortune noted, the moves Old Navy is making are important as almost two-thirds of its retail employees are 29 or younger, a demographic that historically has a low rate of voter participation. Other companies that boast a large base of younger millennials or Gen X consumers, such as Snapchat, have also taken action to mobilize the youth vote.
Additional retail chains, such as Starbucks, have taken measures to ensure their hourly workers aren’t chained to the espresso bar or checkout register on Election Day so they can cast their ballots with minimal worry.
But Old Navy stands out for actually encouraging its employees to work at voting polls nationwide and adding the incentive of a full day of pay. Such a move is important at a time when confusion reigns over how and if many Americans can even vote. And mind you, a Pew Research study released earlier this year found that during the U.S. 2018 midterm elections, almost 60 percent of poll workers were at least 61 years old – and more than a quarter of them were over the age of 70. There’s no shortage of analysis that explains this is also the age demographic most at risk of catching COVID-19.
Old Navy says it is working with two groups to make this effort pay off. First, Power the Polls is partnering with organizations that seek to diversify poll workers nationwide, both in age and other demographics. Next, Civic Alliance is a coalition of businesses that is encouraging all U.S. citizens to take their voting and civic engagement responsibilities seriously.
This isn’t the first time Old Navy has waded into politics. Last year, the retailer turned the idea of what defines “patriotism” on its head with a line of purple T-shirts sold just before July 4 as part of a campaign to boost civic engagement and raise awareness about the need for anti-discrimination laws.
Another Gap-owned brand is joining Old Navy in its efforts to boost voting nationwide: Banana Republic announced today it will work with the nonprofit Rock the Vote to help encourage, remind and urge people to make it to the ballot box, in person or via the U.S. Postal Service, on November 3.
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Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.