ProBeat: Shame on tech companies that don’t give employees time off to vote

This week, thousands of Amazon employees petitioned for paid time off to vote. The petition asked Amazon “to provide the entire U.S. employee workforce with a paid day/shift off that can be used anytime between now and Election Day on November 3. This additional paid day/shift must be available to all employees every year.” Given the already ridiculous voting lines that the U.S. sees, further exacerbated by the pandemic this year, this seems like a reasonable request. But not for Amazon — the company denied the request, and a spokesperson stated employees “can request and be provided excused time off. The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws.”

Translation: Oh, is there a reason that this particular U.S. election is especially important? Take your petition and shove it. Our bottom line is more important. Amazon will keep doing the bare minimum required by the law.

This is all par for the course. It’s like when Donald Trump “ruined the biggest layup in the history of debates” by refusing to condemn white supremacists. As the second largest employer in the U.S., Amazon should have taken this petition alley-oop and turned it into a slam dunk. But the story was so in-line with Amazon’s corporate behavior that it didn’t even hit Techmeme.

Now, this column was going to be about panning Amazon for its atrocious stance. But a quick check while I was writing showed that the tech giant is not alone.

While hundreds of corporations have joined the nonpartisan “Time To Vote” movement that allocates time for employees to vote during the workday, Amazon isn’t on the member list. But neither are Apple, Facebook, nor Microsoft.

Google and Walmart, the largest employer in the U.S., have signed. Smaller tech companies also on the list include Etsy, Lyft, PayPal, Uber, Salesforce, and Twitter.

Apple has declined to confirm that it is giving 4 hours paid time off on Election Day. Facebook is offering paid time off to all U.S. employees who volunteer to staff the polls, but it hasn’t said anything about voting. Microsoft hasn’t said a peep.

I can’t decide what’s more shameful — the fact that the U.S. doesn’t care to give citizens time off to vote, or that Big Tech isn’t interested in leading the way on such a basic ask.

I pinged Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft for an explanation of their stances. I’ll update this story if I hear back, but I’m not holding my breath.

ProBeat is a column in which Emil rants about whatever crosses him that week.

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