Kiva, GOOD Worldwide, and a slew of other companies and non-profits are making Election Day a paid holiday. Should you?
The Presidential campaign has been nasty, brutish, and long. Come Tuesday, nearly half the population will be gnashing its teeth. But that doesn't mean Election Day isn't worth celebrating.
So give your employees the day off, urges Ben Goldhirsh. Goldhirsh is the founder of GOOD Worldwide, a Los Angeles-based community of "pragmatic idealists working toward individual and collective progress." The organization recently launched a crusade dubbed Take Back Tuesday meant to make both voting easier and voters more appreciative of living in a democracy.
Goldhirsh, who launched GOOD as a magazine in 2006, worries that people have grown so disengaged from politics that voting--which should be an act of optimism and empowerment--feels like a chore. "Voter turnout isn't just a reflection of the challenges of working and voting," says Goldhirsh. "It's a reflection of the separation between the government and the citizenry."
So far GOOD has recruited close to 60 businesses and non-profits that have pledged to add Election Day to their paid-holiday calendars. (Most states require employers to give workers some time off to vote.) It's a diverse group: a printer cartridge company in Phillipsburg, New Jersey; a promotional products supplier in North Charleston, South Carolina; a soup maker in Detroit; a digital consultancy in Austin. All are relatively small, something Goldhirsh hopes will change in later years.
"We started this a little late, and in the bigger companies they had already decided what they were going to do," says Goldhirsh.
The best-known organization taking back Tuesday is Kiva, a non-profit headquartered in San Francisco that tries to combat poverty through microloans. Kiva's operating principle is that the actions of individuals matter, so Take Back Tuesday falls squarely in its wheelhouse.
"These same core values are echoed in the ability of U.S. citizens to vote and volunteer on Election Day," says CEO Matt Flannery. "By making Election Day a holiday, Kiva's employees are free to celebrate these values and this most fundamental civic right in any way they want, without the limitation of time."
Kiva already has flexible hours, he adds, so giving his 99 employees the day off will have little or no financial impact.
Ari Kuschnir has been mulling the peculiarity of the electoral calendar since April, when he watched a TED presentation about why Americans vote on Tuesdays. (Don't know the answer? Don't worry. Neither do Newt Gingrich, John Kerry, or Ron Paul.) Kuschnir, CEO of M ss ng P eces, a creative production company in Brooklyn, believes Election Day ought to be a national holiday. Treating it that way "is the little bit of activism one can do in this situation," he says.
M ss ng P eces has nine employees, and Kuschnir expects they all would have voted even without a day off to do it. Still, "making it official is a statement that this is important," he says. (Kuschnir says he intends to go through with the holiday even though his company lost two days to Hurricane Sandy.)
Like Kuschnir, Goldhirsh would like to see Take Back Tuesday go national, adopted either by Congress or by a critical mass of companies in the kind of do-it-ourselves movement that is GOOD's stock-in-trade. "In two or four years we'll try to build momentum so the bigger brands take this on as a way to represent their values to their employees or to the marketplace," he says.
It goes without saying that GOOD's 80 employees have Election Day off--including Goldhirsh, who expects to spend his post-voting leisure involved in community service. In addition, "there is a vote-and-surf program that got launched by one of the developers," he says. "Depending on the weather, that is a very attractive potential."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan