As you might have heard, there’s a pretty big election on Tuesday— and Patagonia is making sure its employees, and customers, have all the time they need to get out and vote.
The store will close all of its 29 retail locations, as well as its headquarters in Ventura, California, and its distribution and customer service center in Reno, Nevada, in an effort to encourage employees and customers to vote. The Election Day closures — a first for the company —are part of Patagonia’s “Vote Our Planet” campaign, which seeks to mobilize voters to vote for candidates up and down the ballot who prioritize the environment.
“During a time of catastrophic environmental crisis, when America needs strong leadership to confront the fundamental threat of climate change, voter turnout threatens to reach historic lows as people are turned off by the ugliness of politics,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said in a statement. “As a business, we have a unique ability to take a stand and choose to prioritize the health of the planet over profit, and I think it’s important we take that opportunity when it truly matters.”
The campaign is non-partisan, focusing on issues like clean water and clean air rather than party politics, and Patagonia does not endorse any particular candidate or party. Instead, the company has worked to get voters engaged with environmental issues in their community through a series of outreach events held throughout the campaign season at each of their retail locations.
On September 27, to mark National Voter Registration Day, every store offered customers a chance to register to vote. And throughout the past few months, each store has also held a unique event aimed at spotlighting a particular environmental issue in the region — the D.C. store, for example, held a screening of a documentary about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, followed by a discussion with affected residents and the documentary’s director.
“A big push for us is the localization of it,” Lisa Pike Sheehy, Patagonia’s vice president of environmental activism told ThinkProgress of the “Vote Our Planet” campaign back in October. “There is a lot of energy being put into the presidential office, but 88 percent of Congress is up for re-election. We want people to look at their Senate races, their House races, their mayoral and gubernatorial and attorney general races.”
Patagonia is not the only company to offer employees time off for Election Day — Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler will all give companies the day off to vote, a practice first established in 1999 thanks to a United Auto Workers union contract. And 330 companies, including Spotify, SurveyMonkey, and TaskRabbit, have pledged to give their employees the day off to vote through the “Take Off Election Day” campaign.
In the United States, federal elections are always held on a Tuesday because in the 1840s, Congress decided farmers needed an extra day to travel to the polls. Sundays were off-limits for travel due to the Sabbath, so they settled on Monday being a day for travel and Tuesday being a day for actual voting.
Nowadays, holding an election on a Tuesday can be a barrier to some voters who have work and can’t make it to the polls. Americans already don’t have a great participation rate in elections — only 57.5 percent of eligible citizens voted in the 2012 presidential election. In May, President Obama supported the idea of holding elections on federal holidays or on a weekend, so that those who work would have time to go and cast their vote. In 2014, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) proposed a bill to make Election Day a national holiday.
But not everyone is interested in making it easier for eligible citizens to vote. Officials in some states, like North Carolina and Ohio, are actively making it more difficult for voters, and especially voters of color, to get to the polls. Ohio cut an entire week from early voting this year, and North Carolina also cut early voting options throughout the state. In fact, as ThinkProgress’ Alice Ollstein reported last week, voters in dozens of key swing counties across the country could be forced to travel further and wait longer to vote due to sharp reductions in polling places.