Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Time to grab the broom and start bagging the fertilizer...

News of Target's donation has gone viral.  Now it is listed on Think Progress, change.org, and there are multiple Facebook and Twitter pages.  To bring you up to speed, due to the 'Citizens United' decision by the Supreme Court, corporate entities are legal persons and therefore have first amendment rights.  Target Corporation decided to exercise those rights by donating to a "non-partisan" group who then published an ad supporting Tom Emmer, an extreme-rightwing (teabagger?) Republican candidate for Minnesota Governor.

Among Mr. Emmer's espoused policies:
  • lowering/removing the Minimum wage for working-class Americans
  • an immigration reform law similar to Arizona's
  • nullifying Healthcare Reform
  • denying legal recognition in any way, shape or form to any couple that does not consist of one man and one woman .
Mr. Emmer has also been linked to an extremist, "Christian" rap band that advocates the death penalty for LGBT people.  The man is odious, and imho, would be worse than the outgoing governor, Tim Pawlenty.

With me so far?  Ok.  Now Best Buy has also made donations to the same "non-partisan" group.  Both Best Buy and Target have made big deals about how progressive they are, and how dedicated to their employees' equality.  (They both have large booths at Twin Cities Pride every year, and are often found as sponsors on many other LGBT-friendly/supportive events as well.)  Target especially has made a huge PR campaign out of its progressive policies like offering domestic partner benefits, and its many charitable works, like donating school supplies to needy children. 

Now that the poop has hit the fan about the donation, this is the CEO of Target's response: (Via MinnPost)
Dear Target Team,

In the past week I've heard from some of you, including our GLBT team members, regarding your concerns with Target's recent contributions to MN Forward, an independent expenditure committee that is supported by a broad coalition of large and small businesses throughout the state, including the Minnesota Business Partnership and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

As you know, Target has a history of supporting organizations and candidates, on both sides of the aisle, who seek to advance policies aligned with our business objectives, such as job creation and economic growth. MN Forward is focused specifically on those issues and is committed to supporting candidates from any party who will work to improve the state's job climate. However, it is also important to note that we rarely endorse all advocated positions of the organizations or candidates we support, and we do not have a political or social agenda.

In the context of this contribution, some of you have raised questions regarding our commitment to diversity, and more specifically, the GLBT community. Let me be very clear, Target's support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company. Some current examples of that support include:

• Domestic Partner Benefits
• Sponsorship of Twin Cities Pride
• Sponsorship of Out & Equal Workplace Summit

In addition, Target's rating of 100% on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index further demonstrates the reputation our company has earned.

As CEO, I consider it my responsibility to create conditions in which Target can thrive, and I promise to do so with the best interests of our guests, team, shareholders and communities in mind. I appreciate your input and understanding.
My response after the jump

Sunday, July 25, 2010

How do we vote with our dollars when we're on a budget?

UPDATE:  Change.org has an article about this as well, and a petition to sign.

Recent news has come out about Target Corporation supporting an antigay candidate for Minnesota governor. 

Target claims that they made a donation to a "bipartisan" group to create a better business environment, but when you look at the group's website, it is very pointedly partisan, and that group then used Target's donation to support Tom Emmer, who is about as anti-gay a candidate that you can get.  Under the Citizen's United decision, corporations are legal 'people' and therefore have first amendment rights, including unlimited donations to various political candidates supporting that corporation's viewpoint.  While I'm not thrilled about it, OK. I just won't shop or do business with that company, and will "vote with my dollars." 

However, there are a couple of things that disturb me about Target's donation.  They have been known, especially in the Twin Cities area, to be corporate sponsors of LGBT-friendly and supportive events like Twin Cities Pride, and the Minnesota AIDS Project.  They have extremely gay-friendly corporate policies, and HRC gives them a 100 rating in their Shopper's guide, and recommends them as an extremely gay-friendly place to work.  Why would they support a candidate whose policy positions would actively harm their LGBT employees, and undermine the causes they have supported?

Because of the situation, my partner has already moved his pharmacy account from Target, and several of my friends and associates are cancelling their Target credit cards to express their displeasure.  This is what I mean by voting with dollars.  They also have written to the CEO and gotten the brushoff described above, that Target did it as a business decision.  I suppoort them in this and think that the LGBT and progressive communities need to make this a fully-fledged boycott.

I am concerned, though.  I know in this tough economic situation, it is extremely difficult to make a boycott stick.  I'm already boycotting Wal-Fart over it's poor employment practices and anti-union stances.  Now Target is on the list for its ill-considered political support.  Where can I shop though?  It's not like my budget could support shopping elsewhere.  Many times the same reasons the store has low prices or other attractive qualities to someone on a limited budget are the same things that that prospective customer is against.  As an acquaintance of mine once put it--"I don't want to support policies that harm me or my friends, but I can't afford NOT to shop at those stores."  What do you do when you either have to shop at one of the 'boycott' stores or do without?  Is there another way to fight back?  How does the little guy make himself heard in a situation like this?

For employees, they're in an even tighter spot.  They could speak up and/or quit, but in this economy, no one wants to voluntarily give up their job, because it's that much harder to find a new one.  The corporations have all of us little guys over a barrel, and they know it.

I don't have any answers;  All I can say is to do what we can and hope that enough little people band together to make a BIG difference.