In a clear win for the voting rights activists trying to make sure the voter suppression fever seizing Georgia does not spread, the CEOs of Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola have replaced tepid and mostly positive corporate reactions to the new Georgia election law with statements blasting it. ABC News reports on the Delta flip-flop:
“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,” CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo sent to all Delta employees worldwide.
Just a few days ago, Delta had put out a statement adopting the positive Republican spin on features of the law that weren’t so bad and taking credit for averting more egregious provisions via backstage negotiations. Similarly Coca-Cola kept its counsel about the law initially, but its CEO has now taken a stand:
There’s not much doubt these statements were hastened by social media efforts advocating a boycott of both companies.
You have to appreciate that Delta and Coca-Cola are the great corporate symbols of the famously pro-business city of Atlanta (which once deemed itself, during the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s, “the city too busy to hate”). It was inevitable these two companies would be pressed to repudiate the voter-suppression efforts on their home turf, and now more attention than ever will be focused on Coke and other Georgia-based businesses like Home Depot, which has also avoided condemning the new law. It’s important to activists that they make clear the price proponents of laws like Georgia’s will pay, whether or not the new voting rules are ultimately less outrageous than they might have been. The idea is to make the Trump-fed voter-suppression drive in Georgia the last rather than the first of its type, while also using the legislation to motivate those minority voters it threatens.
Delta’s brass read the handwriting on the wall and stopped playing coy and bipartisan on this fundamental issue. Other boardrooms will follow, as is already being illustrated by Microsoft’s Brad Smith:
Just last month, Microsoft shared its decision to invest substantially in Atlanta. As I announced together with Georgia’s Governor and Atlanta’s Mayor, our company is making significant investments that will put Atlanta “on the path toward becoming one of Microsoft’s largest hubs in the United States in the coming decade, after Puget Sound and Silicon Valley.” We are creating thousands of new jobs, and we are proud to become a rapidly growing member of Atlanta’s important business community.
That’s why we are concerned about many aspects of Georgia’s new “Election Integrity Act.” Two things are clear to us. First, the right to vote is the most cherished aspect of democracy. And second, this new law has important provisions that unfairly restrict the rights of people to vote legally, securely, and safely.
As Bob Dylan once wrote, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”