We’ve already seen lines snaking as far as the eye can see and up to 11 hour waits for early voting, and, since the U.S. hasn’t made election day on a weekend or a national holiday like much of the rest of the civilised world, we’re left to the mercy of our bosses. So Amazon tech workers are petitioning the company for a paid day (or shift) off, any time between now and November 3rd in order to vote.
The petition, posted on Amazon’s internal ticketing system, was authored by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ) and had reportedly amassed over 3,000 signatures by midday yesterday. “How can we have a healthy democracy when our country’s second-largest company won’t prioritise voter participation?” an Amazon senior product manager is quoted in the organisers’ blog post.
Between Amazon and Whole Foods, the company employs at least 1,372,000 people in the U.S., making it the second-largest employer behind Walmart. Earlier this year, Amazon fired two AECJ members who criticised the company for failing to prevent the 20,000 estimated covid-19 exposures in its warehouses.
Previous voter surveys suggest that time off could significantly increase turnout. A small survey by the Pew Research Centre of individuals who didn’t vote in the 2014 midterm elections found that 67% of respondents said they didn’t have time — 35% of which specifically named school or work conflicts as the primary reason they didn’t cast a ballot. The numbers aren’t quite as drastic in presidential elections, but in 2016, 14% still said they were too busy or had schedule conflicts. Another Pew study from August shows that apathy — often the biggest deterrent — is (to no surprise) expected to be far less of a problem than usual this year, with 83% of voters said it “really matters” who becomes president, versus 74% in the previous election.
Amazon says that it does grant employees time off to vote but doesn’t offer pay.
“We have supplied all of our employees with information on how to register to vote, details of their local polling locations and how to request time off to vote,” an Amazon spokesperson told Gizmodo via email. “In all 47 states with in person voting, employees that lack adequate time before or after their scheduled workday to vote, 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.”
A period of “hours” would make sense in a country where everybody has quick and easy access to polling places. Unfortunately, that’s not the one we live in.