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By Debra Dawson
Last year, Black, Latino and Asian Pacific Islanders in Georgia turned out in record numbers and voted for change.
Together, we turned Georgia blue for the first time in decades by electing President Biden and Senators Ossoff and Warnock.
Doubling down on anti-voter laws
Georgia Republicans could have responded to this stunning rejection of racism by changing their ways. But instead, they doubled down on it by passing one of the most malicious racist anti-voter laws since the Jim Crow era.
This racist anti-voter law limits early voting periods, makes voting by mail less accessible and reduces the number of ballot drop boxes in Atlanta. Perhaps worst of all, they even made it a crime to hand out snacks or bottles of water to people standing out in the hot sun for hours waiting to vote. I am a Black woman and voices like mine mattered in November, and again in January, and they want to make sure that never happens again.
Sadly they are not alone. Republicans in state capitals across America — with the financial support of Georgia’s major corporations like Delta — have continued Donald Trump’s legacy of racism, spending the first half of 2021 passing a wave of voter suppression bills designed to put up barriers to prevent Black and brown people like me from exercising our freedom to vote.
For The People Act
While these blatant attacks on voters of color are disheartening, the fight is far from over. There is an opportunity to stop these attacks that threaten every family’s ability to elect leaders who will deliver on good jobs, affordable care and our other priorities.
The Senate must pass the For The People Act before it’s too late. This landmark voting rights bill would undo the damage of new voter suppression laws in Georgia and 13 other states before they can take effect. It would establish non-partisan commissions to run the Congressional redistricting process so the people can choose our politicians instead of politicians picking voters through partisan and politically motivated gerrymandering.
This bill would also establish baseline voter access rules so people in every state, county and community have equal access to early voting periods, mail-in voting and ballot drop boxes.
Delta Airlines must take action
Our Senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, have been steadfast in their support of the For The People Act, but it’s clear that we need more voices in this fight.
We need corporations like Delta Airlines, which accepted billions of taxpayer dollars to stay afloat during the pandemic, to take real action. Earlier this week, Delta Airlines held its annual shareholder meeting and told its stockholders, who have seen the value of their investments grow by about 50% in the last year, that ticket sales are up, profits are rebounding and their future is bright.
Back in March, Delta’s CEO Ed Bastien sent all of their employees a memo arguing that the “right to vote is sacred” and that the Georgia Republicans’ voter suppression “bill includes provisions that will make it harder for many underrepresented voters, particularly Black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to elect their representatives.”
The time is now
Without the passage of the For The People Act, Black and brown Americans who decided the last election would be marginalized in the next one. Working people like me are trying to have our voices heard at the ballot box while corporations like Delta fund the Republican legislators, who are pushing for the modern day version of Jim Crow laws, and quietly stand by while the For the People Act is stalled in the US Senate.
My ask to Delta is simple: The time is now to prove you truly believe that the right to vote is sacred, as your CEO claimed in March. You can do so by simply putting your money where their mouth is. Instead of pandering to Wall Street special interests, do something substantive by announcing Delta will permanently end campaign contributions to any lawmakers who vote for these racist, anti-voter bills and use your lobbying power to demand lawmakers support the For The People Act.
This is a moment for leadership, and taking bold action like this right now would spur other big corporations to follow your lead.
Black and brown voters have been systematically disenfranchised for as long as we have had the constitutional freedom to vote in America. We’ve seen this all before. Nevertheless, we are resilient and will continue to do everything we can to protect our fundamental right to vote because we know our collective power can change history and this country.
Delta: Which side of history will you be on?
Debra Dawson is a forklift driver at an Atlanta-based distribution center and a member of SEIU Workers United Southern Region.