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White Castle is closing restaurants and giving workers paid time off to vote on election day, in a move few fast-food giants are willing to make

  • White Castle will close all restaurants from 7 am to 11 am on November 3 to give employees a chance to vote in the election. 
  • Ben & Jerry's and Shack Shake are two of the few other chains to give employees paid time off to vote, as well as free food deals for customers around the election.
  • Other chains that have celebrated voting and attempted to boost voter registration, including McDonald's, Krispy Kreme, and Starbucks, are not giving workers paid time off to vote. 
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White Castle is closing restaurants on election day, in a rare move among fast-food giants. 

The burger chain will close all restaurants from 7 am to 11 am on November 3 to give employees a chance to vote in the election. White Castle employees scheduled to work in restaurants during this time, as well as employees in the home office and manufacturing plants, will be given four hours of paid time off. 

"Starting this year and going forward, White Castle will give team members time to exercise their right to vote in presidential elections," CEO Lisa Ingram said in a statement. "We believe voting is a right of responsible citizenship, and we want all our team members to have that opportunity." 

White Castle is known for being open all hours of the day and does not close for any other holidays, except Christmas Day. 

More companies are giving workers time off to vote, but chains are lagging behind

More than 1,300 companies have signed a pledge to give employees time to vote. Apple, Walmart, and Best Buy are among the retailers taking action, as some experts argue that paid time off could be key to encouraging more low-wage service workers and people of color to vote. 

However, few major restaurant chains are giving workers time off around election day. 

There are some rare exceptions. Ben & Jerry's is closing all company-owned and operated facilities, from headquarters to ice cream factories, on November 3 to encourage employees to vote. The vocally progressive company supports making Election Day a national holiday. 

The ice cream chain is offering free waffle cone upgrades to "people who pledge to vote for justice." Ben & Jerry's set up stations to allow customers to check their voter registration status and register online in stores. It also launched a podcast about the history of racism in America. 

Shake Shack is another rare company giving people time off to vote, with workers getting three hours of paid time off and eight hours of paid time off if they volunteer to work the polls. The burger chain also gave away free fries on its app over the weekend, using the code FRYVOTED to highlight early voting options. 

Other chains are celebrating voting, but stopping short of giving workers time off

Few other restaurant chains are joining White Castle, Shack Shack, and Ben & Jerry's, although many have made efforts of some sort to encourage voter turnout. 

Starbucks is not giving workers paid time off to vote, but is providing all employees a free one-way Lyft ride to vote, volunteer as a poll worker, or drop off their ballot. The coffee giant is also using its app to share voter-registration materials with customers. 

Read more: Starbucks is making an unprecedented effort to get people to vote. Here's how the coffee giant approaches politics, from its ex-CEO's presidential aspirations to its spending on lobbying.

Krispy Kreme announced on Tuesday that it will give customers free doughnuts if they visit on election day. The doughnut chain is giving away "I Voted" stickers, which the company said in a press release may be harder to get this year due to a rise in mail-in voting and pandemic safety precautions. 

McDonald's has already quietly given out thousands of voter registration forms, stuffed into customers' bags of food. Franchisees had the option to distribute the information on voting or to choose not to, an employee told Business Insider. McDonald's declined to comment on the initiative. 

Some within the restaurant industry wish companies would stay silent on anything remotely political. At McDonald's, at least a few franchisees took issue with the voter registration push, with one saying in Kalinowski Equity Research's recent survey that the "recent distribution of 'Get Out The Vote' flyers is another lame attempt by Corporate to be politically correct."

"Social Justice Warriors are now running McDonald's Corporation," another franchisee said in the survey. "Stuff that has nothing to do with selling Big Macs."

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