More than 100 corporate leaders held a Zoom meeting over the weekend to discuss how they could push back against various voting bills and may release a statement on the matter this week.
During the Saturday meeting, which lasted a little over an hour, former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier urged the others in attendance to unite and call for increased voting access and collectively sign a statement challenging new voting legislation they consider discriminatory, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Last month, dozens of black executives, led by Chenault and Frazier, signed a letter calling on companies to fight voting legislation like the law recently passed in Georgia, arguing that they disproportionately affect black voters. The new declaration, which might come early this week, is an extension of that effort.
“The meeting builds on a growing chorus from business leaders to fight more than 350 voting laws being introduced in 47 states that are discriminatory and designed to limit Americans’ ability to vote,” the Chief Executive Leadership Institute at Yale School of Management, the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, and the Leadership Now Project said in a joint statement about the meeting, which was obtained by the Washington Examiner.
“CEOs indicated readiness to act individually and collectively to shore up American democracy and ensure Americans have access to a world class voting system,” the statement continued.
The statement said that the executives present during the meeting indicated that they would reevaluate political donations to candidates who support the bills in question and “would reconsider investments in states which act upon such proposals.”
“It is inspiring to see such an outpouring of courage and patriotism by a wide cross section of major business leaders supporting the fundamental right of each American to vote,” said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor who helped organize the call.
During the weekend phone call, AMC Entertainment Holdings CEO Adam Aron and CyberCore Technologies CEO Tina Kuhn reportedly spoke in favor of signing the planned statement about voting rights. Pepsico, PayPal Holdings, Hess Corp., and T. Rowe Price Group also reportedly plan to throw their support behind the effort. The Washington Examiner reached out to all four companies but didn’t immediately receive responses.
Also among those on the call were business chiefs from Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines, as well as leaders at Target and LinkedIn. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank was also on the call, the Washington Post reported.
Corporations began to wade further into the political realm around the time the Georgia voting law was being discussed and signed. The law requires photo IDs in order to vote absentee by mail, limits absentee drop box locations, and changes some early voting scheduling procedures.
The companies are facing pressure from both the Left and the Right.
Some liberal groups and Democrats have called on corporations to play a larger role in pushing back on new voting legislation, while some conservative groups and Republicans have called for boycotts of companies such as Coca-Cola and Delta after they issued statements opposing the Georgia legislation.
House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned corporations to “stay out of politics” but later walked back those remarks amid criticism and clarified that corporations are “entitled to be involved in politics.”
There has already been corporate action taken in Georgia over its voting law. Major League Baseball decided to move its All-Star Game and 2021 draft from Atlanta because of the legislation. Augusta National Golf Club, which hosted the Masters Tournament last weekend, also faced pressure to take a stand on the matter.
The new voting laws being pushed by Republicans in several states are being crafted in reaction to the chaos surrounding the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, which featured former President Donald Trump refusing to acknowledge that he lost to President Joe Biden. The backlash culminated in a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the day that Congress was set to certify the results of the election.
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