In this day and age of labor shortages, leading corporations are scrambling to attract top talent – or, for that matter, any talent. Now they can count on a new tool. A new survey commissioned by the business organization Civic Alliance shows that more employees expect civic engagement from their companies, and its updated Corporate Civic Playbook provides an easy-to-follow handbook of best practices from some of the best-known brands in the U.S. That includes get-out-the-vote, i.e. GOTV efforts.
Civic Alliance formed in 2020 to assist corporate get-out-the-vote efforts in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Corporate GOTV efforts are nothing new, but the 2020 campaign cycle was very different than any other program, and the members of the Civic Alliance faced a unique challenge.
Months before Election Day 2020, former President Trump began issuing a steady drumbeat of accusations regarding the reliability of U.S. elections. In effect, he primed his supporters to cry foul unless the results showed that he won.
Considering the high level of emotion triggered for months on end by the former president, the baseless fraud allegations could have rippled back with negative impacts on the corporate members of Civic Alliance. However, no boycott movements of any consequence emerged during or after the campaign.
In fact, Civic Alliance members have emerged stronger than ever. A new analysis undertaken by the organization demonstrates a clear linkage between civic engagement and bottom-line performance.
“…publicly-traded companies that were active in civic engagement in the 2020 elections and the crucial moments afterward significantly outperformed the market,” the organization explains. “Civic Alliance’s analysis found these companies were more profitable, grew faster, and were perceived as more valuable to investors than the overall S&P 500.”
The connection between corporate GOTV efforts and bottom-line benefits still requires more analysis. Nevertheless, by demonstrating the concurrence of financial performance, Civic Alliance has provided employers with a strong basis upon which to attract and retain top talent.
Civic Alliance released its S&P analysis along with a survey of its corporate members, including such luminaries as Microsoft, the NBA, Starbucks, Levi Strauss & Co., MTV, Old Navy, Salesforce, Snap Inc., Under Armour and The Estée Lauder Companies. The survey results showed a strong correlation between employee expectations and civic performance.
According to the survey, 65 percent of Civic Alliance members reported that their employees expect them to “be active in civic engagement.”
Those members have certainly come through on GOTV efforts. An overwhelming majority of corporations in the survey – 94 percent – provided their employees with time off to vote in 2020, a key component of the Civic Alliance GOTV strategy.
In addition, almost 100 percent of those companies plan to repeat the time off strategy in 2022.
There is no single solution to the labor shortage, but the survey indicates that corporations can raise their GOTV profile to attract the attention of job seekers who value civic engagement in a hyper-competitive market.
Providing employees with time off to vote represents a next-level step for corporate GOTV efforts. In past election years, corporate employees could expect little more than public service announcements and voter education pamphlets from their employer during election season. Civic Alliance, along with the organization Time to Vote, raised the bar exponentially by encouraging corporations to provide their employees with the cash value of time off to vote.
Both Civic Alliance and Time to Vote have grown since 2020. With some corporations joining both, the member rolls of the two organizations now number 1,250 and 1,960 respectively.
Considering the number and force of the voter suppression efforts undertaken by Republican state legislators after the failed insurrection, they will have their work cut out for them during the crucial 2022 mid-term elections.
By the summer of 2021, it was becoming obvious that Republican legislators were aiming to deny the votes of Democratic-leaning citizens in future elections, accomplishing by law what the insurrectionists failed to do by violence earlier that year.
Unfortunately, the corporate response to the 2021 insurrection wavered at the outset, and so far it has proved ineffectual.
As chronicled by independent journalist Judd Legum in his newsletter, Popular Information, many corporations that pledged to withdraw their donations from insurrection-supporting Republican lawmakers followed through. However, stopping up the corporate money funnel does not go far enough. Savvy, connected politicians can make up the difference through individual contributions and dark money conduits.
Civic Alliance is on a mission to go beyond the corporate funding strategy. It released the data and survey results in tandem with its updated Corporate Civic Playbook, which provides case studies of member companies’ efforts in support of voter participation and other democracy-building strategies.
The playbook also provides guidance on strategies for engaging customers and investors as well as employees.
Tools like the playbook can make a significant difference in voter turnout. However, business leaders who are serious about encouraging voter participation need to be aware that Democratic-leaning voters are facing new challenges in 2022, and not just on account of new legal obstacles.
This year, the Election Day threat is physical violence, and it will happen unless business leaders work with civic officials to prevent it.
Voters in the U.S. have periodically faced outright violence and murder on a mass scale from the Civil War on through to the 1960s, and there is no reason to believe it cannot happen in the 21st century.
The ominous signs are building in the loosening of gun laws, especially in states that have been tightening voting laws, but that is not the only threat.
The weaponizing of vehicles became commonplace during the Trump administration, and the trend has continued since then. In contrast to rallies and protests undertaken by marchers on the ground, former President Trump’s supporters and other extremists have become notorious for vehicle-enabled acts of violence. The murder of Heather Heyer by car during a white supremacist rally in 2017 was just one in a string of incidents, encouraged by the former president, in which convoys of pickup trucks and SUVs have invaded public spaces and served as platforms for harassing and attacking local citizens.
The weeks-long takeover of the capital of Canada by a mob of truck drivers has already inspired a loud buzz of social media chatter encouraging similar acts in the U.S. and elsewhere.
The potential for extremists to disrupt local polling places on a mass scale, by intimidating voters and blocking traffic, is all too real. Corporate leaders should not take a peaceful Election Day for granted during this election cycle, or any other.
Image credit: Manny Becerra via Unsplash
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.
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