Dear Commons Community,
CEOs for Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola came out in strong opposition to Georgia’s recently passed voting law yesterday, both calling the law “unacceptable.”
On Wednesday morning, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees that the law is “unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
“Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal, this legislation is unacceptable,” Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said later that day on CNBC.
In the week since a sweeping package of election restrictions was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, activists have threatened to boycott Delta and other Atlanta-based companies, saying they didn’t do enough to stop the law from being passed.
Delta’s statement, which the company shared with NBC News, is a forceful repudiation of the Georgia law — and similar efforts around the country.
“After having time to now fully understand all that is in the bill, coupled with discussions with leaders and employees in the Black community, it’s evident that the bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives. That is wrong,” the memo reads.
Quincey said the company had opposed the bill from the start and had lobbied against it.
“Our position remains the same: This legislation is wrong, it needs to be remedied, and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and now, even more clearly in public,” he said.
Dozens of Black business leaders publicly urged corporations to oppose voting restrictions in a public letter on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
“This is a call for action,” Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express, said on CNBC on Wednesday. “What we have heard from corporations is general statements about their support for voting rights and against voter suppression. But now we’re asking, put those words into action. We’re asking corporate America to publicly and directly oppose any discriminatory legislation and all measures designed to limit America’s ability to vote.”
Bastian suggests that Delta could get involved in future voting legislation fights, too.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” Bastian wrote. “This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights. So there is much work ahead, and many more opportunities to have an impact.”
Advocates began pressuring major Atlanta-based corporations well before the bill’s passage. Several companies issued statements re-emphasizing their support for free and fair elections and voting rights, but advocates argued those statements fell short of combating the proposed laws.
Both company’s CEOs made it clear they lobbied state lawmakers over the bill.
Quincey was pressed on why he was only going public now, nearly a week after the bill became law.
“The reality is many things are improved and done and achieved in private without having to take a public stand. But in this case, it has not worked, clearly, so we’re being more forceful in our public position,” he told CNBC.
Delta said they had helped to make the bill less suppressive.
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill,” Bastian’s memo notes. “We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
While it is unclear exactly what provisions of the law Delta opposed, earlier versions of the bill would have dramatically curbed weekend early voting, something the final version expanded.
Delta and Coca-Cola are a start. More companies need to come forward!