Rick Epstein didn’t want work to get in the way of his employees’ civic duty. So his insurance company joined more than 300 across the country giving their employees time off to go vote.
Epstein, president of the L.H. Brenner Agency in Westville/Amity, said that instead of allowing his 40 employees to come in a few hours later or leave a few hours earlier, he gave them Tuesday as a paid day off. The employees aren’t being encouraged to vote in a particular way. But they are asked to bring in their “I Voted” sticker on Wednesday to show they voted.
“It probably would have been better for me to do that because it would be less downtime,” he said of just giving a few hours off. “But this was the easy way to do it. Plus, a whole day off is a major incentive to go vote.”
Epstein said it’s the first time he’ has ever closed the business for Election Day. With an important mid-term election being decided, he wanted to make sure that his employees could prioritize voting. It’s that important, he said.
“I thought it was the least I could do to help,” he added.
Epstein’s company is part of a trend of employers trying to do their part for democracy.
Patagonia, the outdoor clothier with an outpost in the Broadway shopping district, is also closing its doors on Election Day so that its employees can vote, though it does not deputize its employees to exercise their democratic right to talk about that practice; they said company practice forbade them from answering questions. (The New Haven Independent stopped by the store Monday and learned that about the Ventura, Calif.-based company.)
Patagonia helped lead the charge for giving employees a day off to vote when it announced this summer that it would close for Election Day. The company has been doing that since 2016. Now a whole awareness campaign aimed at businesses called “Time to Vote” is further pushing for companies to do the same.
Colette Kessler who heads up ElectionDay.org said that the campaign to get companies to establish policies that made time for their employees to vote started back in March 2018 as a Vote.org initiative.
“We’ve never seen momentum around this idea like this year, but we have seen important efforts spring up over the last couple years from individuals companies (Patagonia) or specific industries (tech),” she said in an email.
Patagonia’s CEO Rose Marcario took notice of other companies following its lead in making sure employees can participate in Election Day.
“Other companies joining this campaign are committed to increasing voter participation through programs such as paid time off, a day without meetings and resources for mail-in ballots and early voting,” she wrote. “And all of them care about their workforce and supporting democracy.”
Elm City Market wants to show that it cares about its customers and democracy. So it offered its own first-time incentive for going to vote Tuesday: a 10 percent discount.
All the customer has to do is come in rocking their “I voted” sticker. The store also held an on-site voter registration drive Oct. 22 to Oct. 30. This is the first year that the store has offered the Election Day discount.
“Elm City Market’s mission is to be a community resource beyond providing the freshest, healthiest, and most sustainably sourced food and wellness products,” Kurt Luttecke, CEO of Elm City Market, said. “Providing an incentive to New Haven residents to register and vote in this vitally important election year is part of the market’s central mission.”
The Chapel Street grocer is not, however, shutting down or adjusting the hours of its employees to ensure that they go vote Tuesday. But it’s something to consider for the next election.
As Epstein pointed out, exercising one’s vote is “very important.”
“It’s not a privilege, it’s a right,” he said. “Democracy doesn’t succeed without us voting. There is no guarantee that we will keep it if we don’t participate.”