Delta, Coca-Cola now say they strongly oppose Georgia voting law

Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola have been under pressure to oppose the state's new restrictive voting law. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Atlanta-based companies like Coca-Cola have been under pressure to oppose the state's new restrictive voting law. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

In an abrupt turnaround, the CEOs of both Atlanta-based companies are calling S.B. 202 unacceptable.

Facing boycott threats to their companies, the leaders of Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola stated their opposition to a bill signed into law last Thursday that restricts voter access in their home state of Georgia. 

Delta CEO Ed Bastian on Wednesday distributed an internal memo to staff worldwide in which he called the final S.B. 202 unacceptable and not in line with company values. 

“The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie: that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections,” he wrote. “This is simply not true.”

“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 is 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,” Bastian said in the memo. “That is wrong.”

He added that lawmakers are using the false narrative of “election integrity” in states across the U.S. to pass similar laws to restrict voting rights.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey also called the law unacceptable and “a step backwards.” He stated in a CNBC interview that the company will continue to advocate to remedy the law both privately and in public.

Quincey stated the Peach State-based beverage maker has always opposed the legislation. However, it had a long track-record of working with legislators and stakeholders. 

“We’re coming out even more clearly saying this is wrong and it needs to change,” he said. “We’re being even more forceful in our public position than we were earlier, and we’ll continue to advocate for change.

Seventy-two Black executives signed a letter urging corporate America to fight restrictions on voter access. Last week, Delta voiced support for the law that had just passed. Coca-Cola had remained mostly silent, but told PRWeek it would continue to suspend all political contributions.

Georgia’s new law adds voter-identification requirements, expands legislative power over local election boards, limits ballot drop boxes, increases ID requirements for absentee voting, reduces early voting days and eliminates weekend voting during runoffs. Plus, it criminalizes giving food and water to voters waiting in line.

Civil rights groups including Georgia NAACP, Black Voters Matter, Georgia STAND-UP and the New Georgia Project had rallied public opposition against S.B. 202. Activists and religious leaders called a boycott against Delta, Coke, Home Depot and other corporations for supporting the legislation or the lawmakers behind it. 

Before Bastian’s memo was public, Cliff Albright, cofounder of Black Voters Matter, said regardless of “spin,” SB 202 is the largest attack on voting rights since the late 1800s. 

“Delta has now continued to gaslight Georgia voters and the entire country by ignoring the literally dozens of ways this new law restricts voter access,” he said.

New Georgia Project CEO Nse Ufot was even more direct in his criticism of Georgia-based companies for not strongly opposing the law. 

“Georgia companies can’t have it both ways. It is completely unacceptable to praise the bills that take away our most fundamental American right to vote and simultaneously profit off of our dollars,” Ufot said. “Their low-key betrayal has now become completely blinding.”

This story first appeared on PRWeek US.

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