Top US executives gathered online last weekend to discuss responses to what they see as restricted changes to voting laws. According to a statement from organizers, companies are showing concern about what they see as new restrictions in voting laws.
A Gathering of Executives
The Washington Post reported that the meeting included executives from major airlines, retailers, and manufacturers and at least one NFL owner. CNN disclosed some of the Zoom meeting attendees. These included Target CEO Brian Cornell, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker, Merck boss Ken Frazier, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, and former Fox bigwig James Murdoch.
The Yale School of Management and two other civic groups helped organize the online meeting. Without offering specifics, the organization issued a statement saying that American businesses would not take the matter standing down.
“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 said. The Wall Street Journal reported that some executives described some voting bills as either racist or restrictive. Meanwhile, several participants described voting law changes as critical to democracy instead of partisan.
Executive Actions Against Voting Law Changes
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a Yale management professor and one of the organizers. He said business leaders discussed their options to help prevent the passage of new voting measures. Such actions can include withdrawing support and halting donations to politicians who support the bills.
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They also considered the possibility of delaying investments in states that pass voting law changes. Sonnenfeld said many corporate leaders showed concern that voting legislation could affect employees or other stakeholders. “They don’t want wedge issues. They just don’t want angry constituencies. It’s not in the interest of business,” he said.
Unnamed sources said that former AmEx CEO Kenneth Chenault and Frazier urged leaders to call for greater voting access. They warned businesses against dropping the issue. In fact, they asked CEOs to sign a statement opposing discriminatory voting bills.
The group plans to release an actual collective statement later this week. Chenault said during the meeting that several leaders already signaled they would sign. This includes executives at PepsiCo, PayPal, T. Rowe Price Group, and Hess Corp. Some companies are OK to support with a low-key role. Meanwhile, some refused to participate altogether out of fear of reprisal.
Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brushed off the executives’ plans. “I found it completely discouraging to find a bunch of corporate CEOs getting in the middle of politics,” McConnell said during a press conference last week. “My advice to the corporate CEOs of America is to stay out of politics. Don’t pick sides in these big fights,” he added.
According to the Brennan Center, around 350 voting bills are active in many states. Activists who oppose voting law changes said that the leaders aren’t doing enough. taking aren’t strong enough. Many CEOs now feel a duty, or pressure, to make their views explicitly public.
Black Executives Also Spoke Out
Earlier, 70 prominent Black executives issued a statement against proposed voting law changes. “As Black business leaders, we cannot sit silently in the face of this gathering threat to our nation’s democratic values and allow the fundamental right of Americans to cast their votes for whomever they choose, to be trampled upon yet again,” a joint letter released by the group reads.
“We call upon our colleagues in Corporate America to join us in taking a non-partisan stand for equality and democracy. Each of us stands ready to work with you on what can and must be done,” the executives urged.
Watch the CNBC video reporting Corporations and business executives rail against new Georgia voting law:
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