In February, San Francisco-based agency Traction quietly launched a new policy for its employees. Everyone would be given two paid days off, called “Days of Action,” per year to dedicate to civic engagement.
“We believe democracy is a participatory institution, not just something that happens to you every four years. We wanted to support that,” Traction CEO and co-founder Adam Kleinberg said. “It gives employees two days off to participate in our democracy however they see fit. They can attend a protest or a rally—we stress peaceful protests—they can volunteer for a cause they believe in or they could work at a polling station or canvas for a candidate.”
While Kleinberg and his agency partners all identify as liberal, they felt it would be hypocritical to do something that only focused on their own political agenda. Kleinberg posted about the agency’s policy on LinkedIn in April, simply thinking he would spread the word about what his agency was doing to support its employees. Then things went haywire.
To his surprise, after posting the story, he received a lot of encouragement but also quite a bit of backlash about the policy. “We intentionally authored the policy so it wouldn’t just be about my views or my partner’s views,” he said.
That didn’t stop people from ripping the idea apart. It eventually led to a story about the agency and its policy on right-wing website The Daily Wire.
“We started to get inundated with emails, our Facebook page was attacked with one star reviews, even phone calls. We were called everything from socialists, to fascists, to candy asses,” he said.
A few days ago Traction found itself in the press again. At first, it seemed to be a good thing. The agency was featured in story by the San Francisco Chronicle, “Bay Area demonstrators may be paid to protest, by employers.”
Soon after, things took a turn for the not-so-good, as the story was picked up by Brietbart. Breitbart published an article claiming that it now had evidence that people were in fact being paid to protest–as Traction does not dock its employees’ pay for taking these two days to participate in some form of service.
“It really created a bit of a powder keg and set off a wave of a dozen more articles in right-wing publications,” Kleinberg added. The calls have continued to pour in and the comments have racked up on LinkedIn and Facebook, but Traction is remaining positive and taking pride in the controversy that they are currently involved in.
Employees at Traction decided to create a line of shirts and other merchandise based on the incident, jokingly inviting everyone to “Boycott Traction.” All proceeds go to the ACLU.
“I believe that people who are really taking the time to understand what we are doing, getting beyond reading headlines before they make a decision about what we are trying to achieve, are inspired by what we’re doing,” he said. Technically employees are being paid to attend protest, but it’s the protest of their choosing, the rally that falls in line with their thoughts and beliefs.
It’s also so much more than that. So far, employees have used their two days of service to do everything from marching for women’s rights to creating care packages for soldiers. Kleinberg and his agency only hope to continue giving back in whatever way they see fit, no matter what the internet trolls think.