The story of the egregious legislation recently passed by Republican lawmakers in Georgia, which prohibits the handing out of water or food to people standing in line to vote—along with other measures transparently aimed at limiting voting, is not yet over.
The CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, on Wednesday issued a memo sharply criticizing the voting laws recently signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, marking a notable difference from an earlier statement issued by the Atlanta-based company, which critics said did not go far enough in calling out the new election law, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In fact, hashtags like #BoycottDelta are building steam online as people criticize Delta and other big companies in Georgia for not speaking out unreservedly against the new voting laws, which advocates say echoes Jim Crow attacks on Black people’s ability to have their voices heard at the ballot box. Delta employees over 30,000 people in Georgia.
“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” said Bastian on Wednesday.
“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.”
Late Wednesday, Atlanta’s sports teams, the NFL’s Falcons and the NBA’s Hawks, both came out with strong, mid-week, statements about the new voting laws.
From the Washington Post:
“The right to vote is the most fundamental citizen’s right and we at the Hawks view ourselves as a civic asset — not a partisan organization — and remain committed to endorsing steps that promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot,” Falcons principal owner Tony Ressler said in a statement Wednesday.
Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman, said “every voice and every vote matters” in a Tuesday statement.
“The right to vote is simply sacred. We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen,” Blank said in the release.
Delta’s Bastian also made sure to call out “the big lie” that the 2020 elections were stolen from Donald Trump, which Republicans in several states across the country have used as the baseless justification for trying to make it harder for people to vote.
“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” said Bastian. “This is simply not true.”
The talk of a potential boycott may have pushed Bastian to be more vocal. But the urging of prominent Black executives, including Kenneth Chenault, previously CEO of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, who heads pharmaceutical company Merck, could also be contributing to the building big money storm against the widely-panned new laws.
According to a report from the New York Times, the two Black business leaders have launched a campaign asking business leaders to publicly oppose new laws that would impact the ability of African Americans to vote and use their considerable resources and clout to lobby against it.
“This impacts all Americans, but we also need to acknowledge the history of voting rights for African-Americans,” Chenault told the Times. “And as African-American executives in corporate America, what we were saying is we want corporate America to understand that, and we want them to work with us.”
On Wednesday, Coca-Cola chairman and CEO James Quincey also moved to emphasize his brand’s opposition to the Georgia’s new laws, while speaking on CNBC’s Power Lunch.
“Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal, his legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backwards and it does not promote principals we have stood for in Georgia around broad access to voting,” Quincey said. ‘This is frankly just a way backwards.
“We always opposed this legislation,” he added. “Now that it’s passed, we’re coming out more publicly.”
The public challenges from business giants in Georgia sets the stage for friction with Republicans. On Wednesday, Kemp appeared ready to square up after the harsh words Bastian had for his bogus law, which would increase photo ID requirements for voters and allow Georgia’s State Election Board to usurp local county election officials.
“Today’s statement by Delta CEO Ed Bastian stands in stark contrast to our conversations with the company, ignores the content of the new law, and unfortunately continues to spread the same false attacks being repeated by partisan activists,” said Kemp, according to CNBC.
“At no point did Delta share any opposition to expanding early voting, strengthening voter ID measures, increasing the use of secure drop boxes statewide, and making it easier for local election officials to administer elections —which is exactly what this bill does.”
In his statement, Bastian said Delta and other major corporations “had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed” during negotiations about the new voter laws, suggesting that there must have been some opposition at some point to the legislation (and there was plenty also outside of the negotiating halls)—no matter what Kemp wants to say now.
The opposition from many corners continues, as at least three civil rights lawsuits challenging Georgia’s new laws have been filed as of Wednesday.