Georgia Republicans pass law limiting voting rights. Delta and Coca-Cola against: now they risk boycott and tax increase

Crushed between two fires. At the risk of being the subject of an action boycott or to end up with millions of new taxes to pay. This is what is happening to some big companies – in particular Delta e Coca Cola – who took a stand against the new electoral law in Georgia; and that now they are pulled into one clash politico which they would gladly have done without. Their story shows the risks, but also i limits, of the so-called “responsible capitalism”.

The law of Georgia – Approved by republicans on March 25, it caused lively controversy. It reduces the number of urns placed in the public spaces (where it is possible to deposit one’s vote before election day). Also reduced the number of days, from 49 a 29, within which you can request to vote by mail; stricter rules are set for the identification of voters “in absence”. Some of the most controversial norms have disappeared from the final text: for example, the cancellation of the early voting Sunday (Sunday is the day when, after mass, many African Americans go to vote). That said, the fit anyway reduces, and does not enlarge, the right to vote; and it starts from an unproven premise, namely that last November there were vast ones fraud electoral.

As mentioned, the law provoked controversy and a widespread alarm. Not only in Georgia. The president also intervened in the clash Joe Biden, which he called “disgusting” measure, comparing it to the segregationist ones of the era Jim Crow. For months anyway democrats, groups African Americans, activists for the right to vote they protested and showed the effects that such a law could have on participation democratic. Just some of these activists last February they approached the public affairs office of Delta, asking to speak with the governor of the Georgia, Brian Kemp, and to the Republican politicians of the State, to request the withdrawal, or at least partial mitigation, of the measure.

The viewfinder on Delta – The involvement of the airline in the affair. Delta has its headquarters ad Atlanta and it is the company that employs the most workers throughout it State. Since, in 2016, Ed Bastian became chief executive, Delta it has taken some important public positions: it supports rights Lgbtq and, after the massacre at the school of Parkland, Florida, has ended the partnership with National Rifle Association (back then, the state’s Republicans, in retaliation, canceled $ 50 million in tax incentives for the company). It was therefore quite natural to look at Delta also on this occasion. Upon requests for a public position, the managers of Delta however, they preferred another type of intervention: that is, a private action of lobbying on the Republicans of the state (many of these enjoy electoral funding of their own Delta).

In the end, the intervention was, at least in part, successful. There law it wasn’t as extreme as initially expected. In this he certainly counted him indignation national that the project has raised, and the discomfort of republicans to be perceived as enemies of African Americans. But the hidden but decisive work of persuasion on the part of Delta it certainly counted. We know that airline lobbyists have contacted the Republican leader of the House, David Ralston, and some assistant governors Kemp to eliminate the most controversial rules from the project. The behind-the-scenes action has also enabled a Delta not to enter directly into such a delicate dispute. Despite calls for action, Bastian remained silent; like him, have made the executives of other major companies based in Georgia: Coca Cola, Home Depot, UPS.

The reaction of African-American chief executives – Everything seemed solved when something unexpected happened. After the passage of the law, and the accusation of “segregation” launched by Biden, several African-American chief executives have felt called into question. The first to move was William M. Lewis Jr, chairman at Lazard, who contacted a number of black friends and colleagues by phone and email. To the question “what to do?”, The answer was unanimous. Produce a document in which to openly denounce what happened in Georgia. Within a few hours the appeal was written and destined to be published in the “New York Times”, With dozens of important signatures at the bottom. Among these, Robert F. Smith of Vista Equity Partners, Raymond McGuire, ex Citigroup and now New York mayoral candidate, Richard Parsons, chief executive of Time Warner, Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox, Ken Chenault, former CEO of American Express. The law of Georgia, the signatories write, “makes it difficult to exercise the right to vote, especially for black voters ”. From the world of American business and finance, the signatories ask for a clear intervention: “Because in this case there is no middle ground. Or are you to do vote people, or are you for suppress The vote”.

The reaction of Delta and Coca-Cola – The appeal was a act resounding. Never in the past have so many African-American business men and women gathered around one political document. The historical significance of the gesture was immediately clear, just as the final recipient immediately appeared very clear: precisely that white business world that has been silent for too long. To that world, black businessmen and businesswomen have pointed out an intolerable hypocrisy: to speak when rights are at stake. Lgbtq or those of migrants; say nothing when it is the rights of gods that are trampled neri. And here it re-enters the scene Ed Bastian e Delta. After days of pressures, discussion, uncertainty, Bastian he was faced with a alternative: continue to stay in silence, however, at the risk of being accused of collaboration with the “segregationists”; or to speak, but entering into a very dangerous political affair. Who saw Bastian these days he describes him as anxious, worried. Eventually, probably also pressed by many of the employees of Delta (21 percent are African-American), Bastian he went to the computer and wrote a personal letter to employees. “It is necessary to clarify one thing – he writes -. There final law is unacceptable and does not match the values ​​of Delta”.

Following the example of Bastian, a few hours later he also intervened in the dispute James Quincey, chief executive di Coca Cola, Englishman living in London but contact with William Lewis of Lazard. “I want to be clear. Coca Cola he does not support this law which makes it harder, not easier, to vote, ”he wrote Quincey. What the black chief executives had asked for was therefore fulfilled: some influential white colleagues intervened in a story of racism and discrimination. But it was also about what the Republicans, in Georgia it’s at Washington, they didn’t want to hear. Donald Trump he immediately called for a boycott for Delta e Coca Cola (and also for the Major League of the Football, which in protest canceled a tournament, the All-Star Game, which was to be held Atlanta). Marco Rubio, senator of the Florida, launched a social campaign, #WokeCorporateHypocrites, in which he asks large multinationals to deal with the situation of Uyghurs in China and don’t think of clearing your conscience by inventing absurd stories of segregation. Several Republican deputies they asked for the cans Coca Cola are removed from the distributors of the Legislature of Atlanta and, above all, they demanded that Delta be raised in taxes.

A story of policy, of rights, of values, a story deeply rooted in the American collective consciousness, it has therefore opened a new chapter in the fate of the so-called “responsible capitalism”. Delta e Coca Cola they must withstand the anger and boycott of the gods republicans (it went better to Home Depot e UPS, who are left out); had they remained silent, it is likely that civil rights activists would have asked them right, and they would have boycotted. Moreover, the extreme radicalization of American society does not make it any more possible neutrality. Faced with certain issues – especially those concerning values ​​and inclusiveness – the economic world is also called upon to declare itself. There neutrality is likely to appear cowardice and exclusive research of one’s own interest. Commitment, on the other hand, plunges the economic world into political confrontation. The case of the Georgia however, it is not isolated. In Texas, Republicans are preparing another restrictive electoral law. Texan companies, American Airlines, Dell, AT&T, have already announced theirs opposition. A new chapter of the battle is about to begin.

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