Amazon employees are pushing for the company to make Election Day a paid holiday.
More than 6,400 Amazon workers have signed a petition calling for Election Day to be a paid day off, according to Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a worker activist group. On Saturday, a few hundred people showed up in downtown Seattle to protest the company’s current policy and register voters, according to the group.
“Removing barriers to voting is critical to ensure we have a voice on the issues we care about,” the petition reads. It notes that many Amazon workers might have trouble voting this year because of reduced polling locations or hours and the possibility of longer-than-usual waits in lines at the polls.
A number of companies this year have given workers additional paid time off on Election Day. The list includes Apple, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Old Navy, Twitter and Walmart, the U.S.’ largest private employer. The business-led group Make Time to Vote counts more than 1,600 members. Those companies have pledged to give extra paid time off for Election Day or to make the day meeting-free, to make it easier for workers to vote before or after their traditional work hours.
Amazon is not on that list. However, Jaci Anderson, a company spokesperson, said that workers could request extra time off if they needed it.
“We have supplied all of our employees with information on how to register to vote, details of their local polling locations and how to request time off to vote. In all 47 states with in-person voting, employees that lack adequate time before or after their scheduled work day to vote can request and be provided excused time off,” she said, adding that the exact amount of time off varied depending on state law.
The company also noted that managers have been directed to approve time-off requests related to voting.
However, some workers expect to face extra hurdles when voting this year. In some states and counties, a consolidation of polling locations and a shortage of poll workers have led to confusion and long waits in some locations. At the same time, high interest in the election is already leading to record turnout in some states with early voting, exacerbating logistical problems heading into Election Day on November 3.
Warehouse workers, who are paid hourly, may not feel like they have the luxury to use existing time off for voting. “We’re forced to choose between voting and making ends meet,” a worker said in AECJ’s press release.
The petition calls for Amazon to set an example, and notes that a paid holiday on Election Day would allow some 600,000 workers to vote worry-free. Amazon has more than 1.3 million workers spread across its warehouses and Whole Foods, making it the U.S.’ second-largest private employer.
“History has shown us that when workers speak out, Amazon is willing to listen,” Victoria Liang, a former Amazon software developer, said in a statement.
A separate petition from Color of Change is also targeting Amazon as well as other large employers to make Election Day a paid holiday.