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

Dear Mr. Steinhafel,

As a gay man, a family member of a Target team member, and a former semi-regular guest, I fail to see how your support of Tom Emmer's campaign through MN Forward serves the best interests of anyone but Target's bottom line.  While you may not endorse any or all of his policies, by donating money that eventually goes to support him, you are participating in harming your guests, your team members, your shareholders and their communities.  While the business environment may seem superficially better due to possible tax breaks or other state fiscal policies that would seemingly benefit Target, I believe this is shortsighted, and will actually have a negative effect on Target.

Whether you were supporting Tom Emmer directly, or by donating to a group who then donated to him, your support will do harm to the interests your letter indicates you are supposed to be keeping in mind.  Due to his anti-gay stances, Tom Emmer supports discrimination and unequal status for LGBT Citizens.  Not only is this totally counter to the policies you mention, It also will have an impact on the bottom line because due to unequal taxation and lack of legal recognition of their relationships, LGBT families have proportionally less income than a similarly situated family that is headed by an opposite-gender couple.  Because that family has less income, they then have less to spend at Target.  Also, many LGBT people are moving their business elsewhere, choosing other retailers or pharmacy providers due to this decision--including my husband.  Because they are going elsewhere, Target's revenues are lower.

This decision also harms your LGBT team members.  Tom Emmer would enact policies making it illegal to offer the domestic partner benefits you tout in your letter.  Also, because those LGBT team members have to pay extra taxes on their domestic partner coverage, they are taking home less than a straight spouse's coverage, again resulting in less disposable income to spend at Target or elsewhere.  Likewise, Mr. Emmer wants to lower the minimum wage.  Those employees who start after the minimum wage law would go into effect would have that much less income to try and pay all of their expenses, yet again affecting their disposable income.

Due to the shrinking pool of disposable income I've described above, revenues at Target, and other stores to be sure, would decline, harming your shareholders' stock value.  This would also harm your team members, because less revenue results in layoffs and store closings.  Also some stockholders may be LGBT themselves or have family members who are, so they would be doubly affected. 

Declining revenues also mean that Target has less money to spread into the community.  This is also a double whammy because Target team members are typically drawn from the local community area.  Not only would Tom Emmer's policies take money away from individuals so that they could not make individual community improvements and donations, Target has less money to do so as well, limiting it's opportunities for good PR to draw more guests.

All of the tax breaks and incentives in the world do you no good if you don't have the business to support them.  I urge you to reconsider this decision and either take back your donation, or donate and publicize equal amounts to community and/or  political organizations that support LGBT individuals, their families, and politicians who will enact policies supporting ALL Minnesotans, not just the wealthiest.


Jason King



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