Dozens of the most prominent Black business leaders in America are banding together to call on companies to fight a wave of voting-rights bills being advanced by Republicans in at least 43 states. The campaign appears to be the first time that so many powerful Black executives have organized to directly call out their peers for failing to stand up for racial justice.
The effort, led by Kenneth Chenault, a former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck, is a response to the swift passage of a Georgia law that they contend makes it harder for Black people to vote. As the debate about that bill raged in recent weeks, most major corporations — including those with headquarters in Atlanta — did not take a position on the legislation.
“There is no middle ground here,” Mr. Chenault said. “You either are for more people voting, or you want to suppress the vote.”
The executives did not criticize specific companies, but instead called on all of corporate America to publicly and directly oppose new laws that would restrict the rights of Black voters, and to use their clout, money and lobbyists to sway the debate with lawmakers.
almost no major companies spoke out against the legislation, which introduced stricter voter identification requirements for absentee balloting, limited drop boxes and expanded the legislature’s power over elections.
Big corporations based in Atlanta, including Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, offered general statements of support for voting rights, but none took a specific stance on the bills. The same was true for most of the executives who signed the new letter, including Mr. Frazier and Mr. Chenault.
Mr. Frazier said he had paid only peripheral attention to the matter before the Georgia law was passed on Thursday. “When the law passed, I started paying attention,” he said.
resignation led other chief executives to distance themselves from Mr. Trump, and the advisory groups disbanded.
“As African-American business executives, we don’t have the luxury of being bystanders to injustice,” Mr. Frazier said. “We don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines when these kinds of injustices are happening all around us.”