'Get out the vote' efforts go corporate—and pharma is joining in

With the fall election closing in, some pharma companies are helping employees make time to vote or volunteer. (Bulik)(Beth Snyder Bulik)

Pharma companies are joining the corporate “get out the vote” trend this election season.

Offering time off, encouraging poll volunteering and assembling voter resources are just a few of the ways drugmakers such as Horizon Therapeutics and Otsuka Pharmaceutical—along with healthcare and pharma agency partners—are participating in the 2020 election.

Horizon has traditionally encouraged employees to vote, but this year it’s taking the extra step of giving them a paid day off. The reason? To give workers free time to help at the polls if they wish.

Many seasoned poll workers are older and hesitant to be out in public spaces during the pandemic, and Horizon hopes its employees can help fill the gap, Irina Konstantinovsky, Horizon Therapeutics' executive vice president and chief human resource officer, said.

“Encouraging people to vote is something I take quite personally,” she said. “I grew up in a brutal dictatorship in Latin America, and I really don’t take democracy for granted. I’ve been in this country 26 years, and it still surprises me at times that people would choose not to vote.”

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Mary Michael, VP of patient advocacy at Otsuka America, feels the same way, but for a different reason. She’s a self-described “military brat” and comes from a family with a tradition of military service.

“The ability to vote is not just a right and a privilege, but a civic responsibility,” she said. “We each have an opportunity to shape how our country is run," she said, adding that every vote “is so important because that’s what makes our democracy representative of its citizens, and representative of your voice.”

Otsuka is giving its employees time off to vote and to volunteer if they choose. The company has also brought in guest speakers to talk about the issues at stake so they can make informed decisions “regardless of political affiliation,” Michael said.

All the companies interviewed for this story noted their get-out-the-vote efforts are nonpartisan and focused on simply making it easier for employees to participate in the process, no matter their political persuasion.

W2O Group, a communications and ad agency network with many pharma and healthcare company clients, has joined the corporate initiative “Time to Vote” along with other networks active in pharma such as McCann Worldgroup, Interpublic Group and WPP.

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Launched in 2018, the effort asks companies that join to commit to work schedules that allow their employees time to vote in this year’s election.

W2O Group CEO and Founder Jim Weiss said the agency is giving employees a paid day off on Nov. 3, not only to vote but also to allow them time to get involved in the process.

“Especially this year with all the floods, fires, COVID and everything else, people want to feel like they’re giving back, and that’s a good way to do it,” he said.