In a historic move, fashion companies including Old Navy and Tory Burch have announced they will pay wages to employees who sign up to be poll workers on Election Day—in addition to the compensation workers receive from their local jurisdiction.
Old Navy, one of the first companies to announce its poll worker initiative, is also ensuring non-hourly employees are entitled to three hours of paid time off work to cast their ballots on Nov. 3. The brand is also partnering with Power the Polls and the Civic Alliance to recruit 250,000 new poll workers in response to pandemic-related personnel shortages.
“Every voice in this country matters and deserves to be heard at the polls, and 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,” said Nancy Green, president of Old Navy.
Tory Burch was among the brands that followed suit—and Burch had already announced that stores and offices would be closed on Election Day.
“I do think giving people time off to vote and offering employees the opportunity to be poll workers is something the fashion industry can get behind,” Burch told Vogue. “But I really think it should be about all industries, as we’re all in this together.”
Additionally, Patagonia will close its U.S. stores, headquarters and distribution center on Election Day, while still paying employees for the day off—with Twitter, Ben & Jerry’s and Coca-Cola following suit.
Why the Push for Poll Workers This Year?
Historically, the majority of volunteers have been over the age of 61, in an age bracket particularly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. According to the CDC, eight out of 10 people who die of COVID in the U.S. are over 65 years old.
As a result, the Election Assistance Commission and voting organizations are encouraging younger Americans to volunteer their time. The companies’ announcements come amidst a flurry of outreach for National Poll Worker Recruitment Day on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
Sufficient staffing is even more crucial now than in other election years. Poll workers will be needed to ensure that voting booths are sanitary and that voters are safely distanced. Lines are also longer when there aren’t enough workers on hand, which is not conducive to stopping the spread of COVID-19. And without new volunteers, even more polling locations are at risk of being closed down by their counties.