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To even the most casual observer, it’s obvious we are living in unparalleled and unprecedented political times. And, paradoxically, it is also a time we are experiencing low voter turnout -- especially among younger generations.
In the last mid-term election (2014), only 21% of millennials voted, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. When about 80% of young voters choose not to participate in the election process, I feel there is a responsibility of CEOs and business leaders to do what is necessary to encourage full participation by our employees in exercising their right to vote.
Many of our political leaders today seem more interested in winning at all costs, sowing divisiveness among our citizens, and belittling each other at a time when we need to be working together to solve our large and exacerbating foundational problems. We have witnessed, over the last 50 years, what I consider a catastrophic failure in our political system and leaders. Their lack of leadership and inability to create bi-partisan solutions has left U.S. citizens with unsustainable levels of debt, an archaic and crumbling infrastructure, an ailing public education system, spiraling healthcare and higher education costs, as well as a planet that is getting warmer every year. Even if we worked together today to start solving these problems, it’s not going to be easy. The difficulty level of solving them increases exponentially each year (and each congressional term) that political leaders choose to not work together in creating common sense solutions to these issues.
Sadly, it is the younger generations as well as their children and their grandchildren who are going to bear the brunt and the responsibility, and incur the cost of political mismanagement of the last half century. So, 21% participation isn’t good enough. We have to do better.
At Centro, we enacted a new policy this week where we are making Election Day in the U.S. and Canada a national holiday going forward. For all national election days, our employees are getting a half-day paid time-off so they have the requisite time, space and freedom to vote. In the U.S., our employees will be taking this on November 6, 2018. In Canada, employees will do this on October 21, 2019, for its next election. Our goal is 100% participation of our employees.
Importantly, Centro is not making any references or inferences to our employees on “who” they should vote for or what issues they should vote “for” or “against.” Our company is only asking that each employee votes and that they vote their conscience. They can vote for whomever they feel best represents them and their values. And they should vote for the person they feel will make the best decisions to put our local, state and federal governments on a better, and more positive, track going forward.
Centro is not the only one that has this perspective on civic and corporate duty, and so we are asking, and encouraging, our peer companies in Chicago, in the U.S., in Canada, in media and in technology to join us in making Election Day an official national holiday. The strength of our country and our economy are critical to creating a positive business environment and we need responsible and pragmatic political leadership working together to help us continue to grow and flourish. A great way to show government the power of teamwork is for businesses to unite in giving employees time to vote on Election Day.
Shawn Riegsecker is founder and CEO of Centro.