The measure sprang from a recommendation by the company’s recently-announced social justice task force.
Universal Music Group is making voting easier for its U.S. employees by making Election Day 2020, Nov. 3, a paid company holiday. The company announced the news to staffers in an internal memo Friday (July 17) and obtained by Billboard.
“After all, the right to vote is the very foundation of democracy — perhaps of freedom itself,” reads the memo, which notes that only 56% of eligible U.S. voters cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election. “As Americans, we have fought long and hard to win the right to vote. It took 91 years after the Constitution was enacted until people of color won the right, and even then, it was only males. It took 143 years after the Constitution until women won it. The right to vote was hard won.”
The company holiday was an idea proposed to leadership by UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change — which was launched int he wake of nationwide protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. The memo points out that the forthcoming Election Day holiday is an expansion of UMG’s preexisting policy, which already gave U.S. employees two hours of paid time off (three hours in Tennessee, as mandated by state law) to vote. That same policy will remain in place going forward for all other elections, including primaries, special elections and early voting.
In addition to the new policy, the memo provides information on a variety of election-related issues, including guidance on how to vote early, check voter registration status, request an absentee ballot, find a designated polling location and check how the pandemic will impact each state’s election practices. It notes that UMG and the Task Force for Meaningful Change are partnering with several voting organizations and will be providing more voting-related information and activities in the coming weeks and months.
The Task Force for Meaningful Change is co-chaired by UMG executive vp, general counsel and Def Jam interim chairman and CEO Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president and Capitol Music Group executive vp Ethiopia Habtemariam, while 30 other UMG employees are serving as members. On June 4, the company unveiled a first course of action for the task force, including a $25 million “Change Fund” to be invested across six areas of focus: aid/charitable giving, global, internal/institutional change, legislative/public policy, partners and programming/curation.
Though making Election Day a company holiday isn’t typical in the U.S., a few companies, including Twitter and Uber, recently implemented the policy to make it easier for employees to vote. UMG appears to be the first major music company to do so in the U.S., where voter turnout is historically low compared to other developed nations.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, 14% of nonvoters in the 2016 presidential election said they didn’t vote due because they were too busy or had conflicting work and school schedules.
You can read the full UMG memo below.
Today, Universal Music Group is announcing a new policy that was proposed by the Task Force for Meaningful Change, to help you exercise your right to vote in the upcoming U.S. elections.
After all, the right to vote is the very foundation of democracy – perhaps of freedom itself. As Americans, we have fought long and hard to win the right to vote. It took 91 years after the Constitution was enacted until people of color won the right, and even then, it was only males. It took 143 years after the Constitution until women won it. The right to vote was hard won.
In 2016, only 56% of eligible voters participated in the presidential election. As noted political observer Larry Sabato said, “Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
UMG Voting Assistance Policies – UPDATED!
At UMG, we believe every eligible citizen should vote. Our Policy Handbook states that, “UMG encourages all employees who are eligible to vote, to register and vote in federal, state and local elections.”
Here’s what we’re doing to help:
· Election Day (November 3) Full-Day Company “Holiday”
· In order to help assure employees’ ability to vote, Election Day (November 3, 2020) will be a full-day holiday (eight hours) for all U.S.-based UMG employees.
· Other Paid Time Off to Vote
· This year’s Election Day Holiday complements our long-standing “voting time off policy,” which can be used to vote in other elections – such as primary elections or special elections or early voting. This provides U.S.-based employees who are eligible to vote in the U.S. with up to two hours of paid time off to vote (up to three hours of paid time off for Tennessee voters, by state law there).
· This paid time should be taken at the beginning or end of your regular workday. You must give your manager reasonable advance notice that you will need to take time off. Information and “Voting Time Off Request Form” available HERE.
· Helpful Info on How to Vote
· There are many ways to vote in addition to in-person voting on November 3. Given this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, many people are voting by mail (also known as “absentee voting” or “voting from home”), where it is available. Others are voting in-person, but before November 3 – this is known as “early voting.” Here is some helpful background.
· Check Your Registration!
· Eligible voters must register to vote in advance. If you have moved, your registration must be updated with your current address. IMPORTANT: many states have been purging voter lists and deleting voters, for a variety of reasons but especially those individuals who might not have voted in recent elections. Take a moment NOW to confirm that you are still registered, so you are not prohibited from voting.
· Check your registration status HERE. AND FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO REGISTER, SEE HERE.
· Absentee (“Vote by Mail”) Voting
· Many states have “vote by mail” programs for those who aren’t able to vote in-person on November 3. IMPORTANTLY, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have broadened eligibility for “voting by mail.” To see if you are eligible to vote by mail, please check HERE.
· Early In-Person Voting
· Some voters prefer to vote in-person but are either unable to do so on November 3 or simply want to avoid the long lines that can plague in-person voting on that date. For those who prefer this “early voting,” see HERE for information on rules and timing in your state.
· In-Person Voting on November 3 – Check Your Voting Location!
· If you’re voting in-person on November 3, be sure to check HERE for information about your voting location.
· Stay Informed!
· The COVID-19 pandemic will likely impact many deadlines, voting locations and instructions. We’ll work to keep you apprised, but you should also check HERE for information on how the pandemic is impacting your state’s elections.
UMG and the Task Force for Meaningful Change are partnering with several voting organizations. We’ll have lots more information and activities to come in the weeks and months ahead. Be sure to read the weekly “All Together Now” emails and other communications for updates.
For more information on the Task Force for Meaningful Change and its latest activities, keep an eye out for further emails and check HERE.
If indeed democracy is not a spectator sport, let’s get off the sidelines and into the game.