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Here’s How Businesses Can Support BLM Quickly

June 26th, 2020 by dk

Your bosses responded to the current civic unrest by painting “Black Lives Matter” on the business’s windows. They understand it’s only a token gesture and they have to do more. They have pledged to review hiring and promotion practices, creating a workplace that roots out racial and economic injustices. Those corrections take time.

What else can they do right now that matches the urgency of this moment? The suggestion box is waiting to be filled. Your company should declare Tuesday, November 3rd — and every national Election Day — a paid holiday for all its workers. Close the doors for that day, because there’s something more important to do than work.

It’s sad but true that our state and national governments have lost their ability to lead. Many business owners are trying to take up the slack. When it comes to minimum wages, office recycling, alternative commute strategies, they aren’t waiting for our leaders. They are showing the way.

If the business you work for announces that no work will be done on Election Day, other businesses will follow. Once it becomes a talking point at the Downtown Athletic Club, the idea will spread as fast as —. (No, let’s not go there.) But what if your bosses don’t want to stop there? There’s still room in that suggestion box.

They can allow a voter registration table to be set up in the break room. Oregon leads the nation with the first voter-motor law. Registering to vote here is so easy, it’s almost automatic. But not everybody drives. Some out-of-staters don’t get an Oregon drivers license right away. Or they do, and then they move, invalidating their voter registration.

Of course, registering to vote is not the goal. Voting is what matters. Your employer could make that point by hosting a watch party — or multiple watch parties, if necessary — on the evening of Election Day, so that employees can enjoy this company benefit together. You can cheer together any uptick in voter turnout, regardless of who wins.

Businesses think of themselves as non-political. Good for them. An inclusive workplace prohibits political statements. But that’s not quite right. Partisan messages speak for only one side. Genuine political messages speak for the whole. Voting is the goal  of these suggestions — not campaigning for one side. We’re all equal at the dropbox.

Endorsing voter registration is not partisan. It’s citizenship. And if the voter registration table in the lunchroom is accepted, then ask to do the same in the lobby or sidewalk. Vendors and customers will welcome the message that this is a company that empowers people.

Because that’s what this is really all about — empowerment. Marching in the streets, chanting slogans, toppling statues are fervent attempts to reset the power equation. Collective action exerts power. Engaged employees make suggestions. Enlightened shoppers leverage their buying decisions. We must wield our collective power with care.

We have many paths to empowerment. One celebrates our origins and points to a brighter future — voting. Government authorities don’t always have a suggestion box outside their offices. But they have something that’s roughly equivalent — the ballot box.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com.

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