Major Companies Ganging Up On the Middle Class

Major companies including Amazon, Google, and Netflix signed a statement released Wednesday opposing “any discriminatory legislation” that makes it harder for people to vote.

Warren Buffett, BlackRock, Starbucks, and hundreds of other corporations and executives signed the statement, which appeared in advertisements in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The released statement came after the efforts in many states to enact new election laws were labeled discriminatory and racist by liberal activists.

Former President Donald Trump, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other Republican lawmakers have called for companies to remain out of politics.

Not all major corporations signed the statement. Coca-Cola and Delta, Atlanta-based companies that came under fire after condemning Georgia’s new voting law, declined to participate, according to Times sources.

Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, organized putting together the statement. They led a group of Black executives last month in calling on companies to get more involved in opposing legislation similar to Georgia’s new law.

“It should be clear that there is overwhelming support in corporate America for the principle of voting rights,” Chenault said.

The released statement did not address specific election legislation in states such as Texas, Arizona, and Michigan.

“We are not being prescriptive,” Chenault said. “There is no one answer.”

Frazier stressed the statement was intended to be nonpartisan.

“These are not political issues,” said Frazier, adding that protecting voting rights should be supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

“These are the issues that we were taught in civics.”

Late last month, Gov. Brian Kemp, R-Ga., signed a voting law that included new restrictions on voting by mail, and greater legislative control over how elections are run.

Republicans said the law will help assure elections are run legally and efficiently. Democrats and voting rights groups claimed the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color.

Since companies began speaking out against the Georgia law and similar legislation in other states, Republicans have accused corporations of siding with Democrats.

Georgia lawmakers threatened to rescind a tax break that saves Delta Air Lines millions of dollars a year. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called Delta and Coca-Cola, “woke corporate hypocrites” for criticizing the Georgia law.

Major League Baseball moved its annual All-Star Game, originally scheduled to be played in Atlanta in July, to Denver. Several GOP lawmakers now are looking into revoking baseball’s antitrust exemption.

Trump joined calls for a boycott of companies that speak out against the voting laws. Last week, McConnell said companies should “stay out of politics.”

Another company that did not sign the statement was Home Depot. Although co-founder Arthur Blank told other business executives Saturday he supported voting rights, company co-founder Ken Langone is a vocal Trump supporter.

On Tuesday, Home Depot said in a statement that “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.”

Many companies do not want to be pressured into taking stands on specific legislation.

JPMorgan Chase declined to sign the statement despite a personal request from senior Black business leaders to chief executive Jamie Dimon, according to sources.

Dimon, who publicly has supported Black Lives Matter, previously issued a statement on voting rights  saying, “We believe voting must be accessible and equitable.”

Coca-Cola and Delta declined to comment on why they did not sign the statement. Sources said the companies perhaps refrained because of the blowback received after earlier statements on voting rights.

Buffett, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway, chose to sign the statement personally while keeping his company’s name off. He has contended businesses should not be involved in politics.

Some companies, including ones that signed the statement, asked for the removal of a sentence committing them “to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”

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