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Demonstrators protest Georgia's voting law earlier this month. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

The floodgates are open. Almost a week after a bill that curbs voting access in Georgia became law — and nearly one month after it passed the state's House — a slew of corporations have come out against voter suppression.

Why it matters: In an era where businesses are more outspoken (and being pressured to be that way), their silence on this issue had been deafening.

  • Flashback: Activists called on Georgia-based companies (Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot) to use their political might and put pressure on politicians, to no avail. Then they threatened boycotts.

Driving the news: In an open letter out on Wednesday, over 70 Black executives demanded that corporate America take a stand against legislation that makes it harder to vote, as the New York Times first reported.

What they're saying: Delta CEO Ed Bastian, in a reversal on Wednesday: "I need to make it crystal clear that the final [Georgia] bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values."

  • "Let me get crystal clear and unequivocal. This legislation is unacceptable," Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey told CNBC on Wednesday.

The big question: When corporate action typically comes in the form of a press release, what took so long?

  • "When they really started to respond is when they started to get pressure from antagonists. What they should have done is gotten ahead of it," says Paul Argenti, a corporate communications professor at Dartmouth College.
  • Argenti says there's a slew of factors that go into when a company decides to speak out and how quickly — like if the issue aligns with corporate strategy.
  • "The right to vote? This is an easy one," Argenti says.

Go deeper: Track all the CEO statements here

Go deeper

Delta CEO calls new Georgia voting restrictions "unacceptable"

Ed Bastian. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian condemned Georgia's new election law as "unacceptable" in a memo circulated to staff on Wednesday, claiming that the "entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie" about widespread voter fraud in 2020.

Why it matters: The Atlanta-based airline is one of the largest employers in Georgia and was facing calls for a boycott over its stance on the Republican-crafted law, per the Washington Post.

72 Black executives call on corporate America to fight voting restrictions

72 Black executives signed onto an open letter Wednesday demanding corporate America take action to fight GOP-led legislation that would restrict voting access in at least 43 states.

Why it matters: "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 New York Times writes.

Delta to stop blocking middle seats on May 1

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Delta Airlines will begin filling middle seats again on May 1 — reversing a change made in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, per a news release.

Why it matters: Delta is one of the last airlines to unblock middle seats. The company says increased consumer confidence and the rollout of coronavirus vaccines have lowered potential risks. All passengers will still be required to wear face masks.

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