This comment was originally published by Newsweek.
When Maine was viewed as a major state decades ago, the political adage was, “As Maine goes, so does the nation.” Now, as 43 states try to follow Georgia’s efforts to suppress voters, the phrase should read, “As Georgia goes, so does the nation.”
Georgia is proud, and rightly proud, to now host 34 Fortune 1000 companies – 4 by 2019 – and 18 Fortune 500 companies. Atlanta itself now ranks third nationwide in terms of the number of Fortune 500 companies associated with Chicago. These large global corporations have been pioneers in global markets, technology pioneers, and leaders in matters of social impact, from sustainability and gun safety to racial justice and social harmony.
Even friends can use honest advice. How did these CEOs mute their votes when the GOP-controlled Georgian legislature overrode local electoral bodies, reduced 33 ballot boxes to 9, and denied water to people in long lines?
Many of the CEOs of these companies are our personal friends. However, friends can also use honest advice from other friends. How did these CEOs mute their votes when the GOP-controlled Georgian legislature overrode local electoral bodies, reduced 33 ballot boxes to 9, and denied water to people in long lines?
Could our friends of the Georgian business leader have become too cautious or even “over-advocate”? At the very least, UPS should have done more to simply train their employees and encourage them and stakeholders to speak up. The right to fair elections is so fundamental to our society and our democracy that any company should be ready to speak out.
Both Google and Microsoft recently announced new regional offices in Atlanta. Perhaps it is time your workforce requested a review of such company movements.
Former Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. has been credited with the anointing of Atlanta as “the city too busy to hate.” He ended the breakup with Jim Crow at City Hall on his first day in office in 1962. In 1964, he was the only south-elected official to advocate the Civil Rights Act. In December 1964, when Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, Allen and Ralph McGill, editors of the Atlanta Constitution, organized a banquet to celebrate MLK and, to the shock of Coca-Cola Patriarch Robert Woodruff, received the Nobel Peace Prize blessing for white business .
J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, redoubled efforts to undermine and discredit MLK. Then Coca-Cola President J. Paul Austin famously declared: “It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international company. The Coca-Cola Company doesn’t need Atlanta. They all have to decide if Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Company. “
White business leaders then signed up, but Allen still suspected they would not show up for the banquet or send substitutes. He announced, “Most of you will be out of town or sick and you will send someone to represent you. But do not be alarmed. The mayor will be there. “Despite concerns in the business community over KKK threats, the reception was held on January 27, 1965. The sold-out crowd of 1,500 guests was filled with Georgia business stars. Time Magazine hailed Atlanta as “one of the most enlightened cities in the South for a long time”.
After the historic turnout and efficient, fraud-free ballot counting in the fall, the nation is puzzled by the relative silence of Georgian CEOs following what the New York Times called “the most comprehensive restriction on ballot paper in generations.” ”
“It really was when rural Republican Georgia tried to remind Atlanta that this is still the South,” a prominent business leader told us privately.
Democratic Senator Jen Jordan described it as “a Christmas tree full of goodies to suppress voters. And let’s be clear, some of the most dangerous provisions have to do with taking over local elections. “
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was quick to sign the stern bill, which lawmakers passed with only strong party line votes – without any consultation or review by the business community, or likely even by the governor himself.
“Yes, we knew we needed laws that would make it easy to vote and difficult to cheat. The business community has all stayed together in this regard and has been actively working behind the scenes with the governor and speaker to ensure a best-case solution, “a normally forward-thinking CEO assured us last week.
A dismayed Fortune 100 Georgian CEO confided that the governor’s latest sanction “only promotes the big lie Trump lost to unproven election fraud and makes Atlanta a less attractive city to move to.”
“I think a lot of prominent business leaders are afraid to get involved in what they think is partisan politics. It is a partisan issue in the sense that the Republican Party has made the repression of minority voters its main strategy, ”said a Fortune 50 CEO from outside Georgia.
If that cowardice had been the feel of Georgian corporate governance in the 1960s, Atlanta would have looked like Bull Connors Alabama and Martin Luther King were arrested again on his return from Oslo.
The Atlanta business community could use fewer lawyers or public relations professionals and instead revive the spirit of the business leaders of the 1960s. These business leaders did not tiptoe around racial injustices because they feared offending right-wing politicians. Nor were they supporters of bigoted voters. They were leaders – just leaders.
National business groups should regain their wisdom and courage from the autumn elections, since strengthening democracy is not a partisan issue.
National business groups should regain their wisdom and courage from the autumn elections, since strengthening democracy is not a partisan issue. A fair, free democratic society is America’s greatest economic resource and a pillar of national security and our national purpose.
“Believe it or not, I have almost more faith in business than in the church, in politics, and in almost everything else I do. And the reason for this is that our free enterprise system offers more freedom and more courage To rise from all kinds of needs and envision and create fame in the midst of darkness and clouds, “former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young said at a Yale CEO forum two years ago.