The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: corporate america

Corporations Won Olympic Gold in 'Downhill Ethical Backflip'

By far the top team performance in this year's Winter Olympics in Beijing was corporate America's breathtaking double-twist ethical backflips.

This is a group of leading brand names that have so loudly been touting their code of ethics, pledging to stand against repressive regimes that abuse human rights. But here came the Olympic games in China, posing their first test, and it was not really a tough one. They were not asked to do anything, but merely to NOT do something — specifically, don't provide ethical legitimacy to the brutally repressive Chinese regime by sponsoring their propagandistic use of the Olympics.

Human rights advocates worldwide had called on global corporate giants to use their economic leverage to send a powerful message of disapproval to the Chinese dictatorship that is routinely committing acts of genocide and political suppression against Uyghurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong citizens, and any other dissidents under their rule. Corporate leaders would not have to march, picket or otherwise muss up their high-dollar suits — just don't pay millions of shareholders' dollars to link arms and reputations with rank repression.

Well, if you watched any of the Olympic broadcasts, you witnessed the corporate choice: a collective backflip from the high ethical bar of human rights into the pits of crass, unprincipled commercialism. Look, there's the flag of Coca-Cola, and Visa, and Pizza Hut, AirBnb, Intel, Procter & Gamble... and a who's who of America's corporate all-stars. They paid more than a billion dollars to be proud sponsors of the regime's Olympic show, choosing access to China's leaders and markets over soft goals like ethics.

Well, sniffed one sponsor, raising testy political issues "would not advance the cause of sport in which our commitment lies." Really, how sporting is genocide? Another barked that "nobody, nobody cares what happens to Uyghurs, OK?" No, it's not OK, and also not true. And yet another clueless corporate boss cavalierly dismissed ethics by declaring, "Ski and sport have no business in politics... It's common sense."

No, it's cowardice, stupidity, and un-Olympian.

Corporate America's CEOs are mostly well-heeled money people who would hardly be considered athletic. Yet, every now and then a few of these soft elites bust out as championship players of an old game called Duck & Dodge.

It's a sport of political finesse played when social conditions reach a boiling point, threatening problems for the corporate order. In those moments, a few leading executives suddenly come out as social activists to side with the aggrieved. Ducking and dodging their own responsibility for grievances, these players claim that they will fix the system. When public attention drifts, however, so do the fixers, returning to business as usual.

You might recall, for example, the huffing and puffing leaders a year ago when our very democracy was under siege, not only by seditious right-wing extremist groups that stormed the U.S. Capitol, but also by a clique of pusillanimous, right-wing Congress critters who joined the coup attempt to overthrow the people's democratic vote. "Outrageous!" shouted some 700 corporate powerhouses in unison, pledging that they would save our democracy. How? By cutting off the huge campaign donations they'd been giving to those 147 Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the election.

Let's pause here for a hypocrisy check: Aren't these born-again democracy champions the very same corporations that've been using their unlimited special-interest cash to purchase lawmakers wholesale and steal the people's political power? Yes... yet they now want us to believe they're our saviors.

But they've quickly reverted to their true selves. Within weeks of so sternly chastising members of Congress' "sedition caucus," the corporate donor class — shhhhh — quietly returned to lavishing bribery bucks on them. AT&T, Boeing, Citigroup, GM, Pfizer and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the corporate phonies that slipped $2.4 million in donations last year to members of Congress they had publicly condemned as un-American. It'd make more sense to trust a coyote to guard your last lamb chop than to think that corporations value anything but their own profit.

Populist author, public speaker and radio commentator Jim Hightower writes The Hightower Lowdown, a monthly newsletter chronicling the ongoing fights by America's ordinary people against rule by plutocratic elites. Sign up at HightowerLowdown.org.

Why Is The ‘Quits Rate’ Skyrocketing Now?

As a writer, I get stuck every so often straining for the right words to tell my story or otherwise make the kind of progress I want on the piece I'm writing. Over the years, though, I've learned when to quit tying myself into mental knots over sentence construction and instead step back and rethink where my story is going.

This process is essentially what millions of American working families are going through this year as record numbers of them are shocking bosses, politicians and economists by stepping back and declaring: "We quit!" Most of the quits are tied to very real abuses that have become ingrained in our workplaces over the past couple of decades — poverty paychecks, no health care, unpredictable schedules, no child care, understaffing, forced overtime, unsafe jobs, sexist and racist managers, tolerance of aggressively rude customers and so awful much more.

Meanwhile, corporate bosses across America have been sputtering in outrage at workers this summer, spewing expletives about the fact that while the U.S. economy has been coming back ... workers (i.e., you) haven't!

"Labor shortage," they squeal, lazily accusing the workforce of mass laziness. Apparently, they charge insultingly that millions of workers got used to laying around during the pandemic shutdown, for there is now an abundance of jobs open for everything from restaurant work to nursing to construction work. So, the bosses and their political dogs bark that you people need to get back in the old harness and start pulling again.

Adding a nasty bite to their bark, several GOP governors cut off unemployment benefits to people, hoping to force them to work. Other businesses have proffered signing bonuses, free dinner coupons and other lures, while such notoriously mingy outfits as McDonald's and Walmart have even upped their wage scales in an effort to draw workers.

Yet ... no go. In fact, to the astonishment of the economic elite, the employment flow this year is going the other way! Record numbers of current workers in all sorts of jobs in every section of the country are voluntarily walking away. There's even an official economic measurement of this phenomenon called the "quits rate," and it is surging beyond anything our economy has experienced in modern memory — in April, 4 million workers quit; in May, another 3.6 million left, in June, 3.9 million said "Adios!" At a time when conventional economic wisdom dictates that, after a devastating 18-month downturn, people would be clinging to any paycheck they can get! The "quits" are so unexpected and so widespread that pundits have started dubbing this year "The Great Resignation."

What's wrong with people, why are such staggering numbers of Americans failing to do their jobs? But wait — maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe the corporate system's "jobs" are failing the people. Consider this: The most common comment by those who're walking out is, "I hate my job."

Specific grievances abound, but at the core of each is a deep, inherently destructive executive-suite malignancy: disrespect. The corporate system has cheapened employees from valuable human assets worthy of being nurtured and advanced to a bookkeeping expense that must be steadily eliminated. It's not just about paychecks, it's about feeling valued, feeling that the hierarchy gives a damn about the people doing the work.

Yet, corporate America is going out of its way to show that it doesn't care — and, of course, workers notice. So, unionization is booming, millions who were laid off by the pandemic are refusing to rush back to the same old grind, and now millions who have jobs are quitting. This is much more than an unusual unemployment stat — it's a sea change in people's attitude about work itself ... and life.

People are rethinking where their story is going and how they can take it in a better direction. Yes, nearly everyone will eventually return to work, but workers themselves have begun redefining the job and rebalancing it with life.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Ted Cruz Openly Advertises Demand For Corporate Bribery

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, now 50, has spent much of his career vigorously defending corporate America. But now that Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, Dell Computer and other major companies are speaking out against GOP voter suppression bills, Cruz is railing against "woke" corporations and threatening to punish them via the United States' tax code. And Walter Shaub, who headed the U.S. Government Office of Ethics under President Barack Obama, is slamming Cruz's threat as "openly corrupt."

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published on April 28, Cruz wrote, "This time, we won't look the other way on Coca-Cola's $12 billion in back taxes owed. This time, when Major League Baseball lobbies to preserve its multibillion-dollar antitrust exception, we'll say no thank you. This time, when Boeing asks for billions in corporate welfare, we'll simply let the Export-Import Bank expire."

The very fact that Cruz is using the term "corporate welfare" in 2021 is ironic. In the past, that term was used primarily by liberals and progressives — and Fox News' Sean Hannity was among the far-right Republicans who claimed that there was no such thing as corporate welfare. But that was before Trumpism, with its pseudo-populism, overtook the GOP.

On May 2, Shaub slammed Cruz on Twitter, posting:

Here are some other comments from Cruz critics that have been posted on Twitter:

Worried McConnell Backs Off Threat To Corporate Leaders

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has had quite a week. On Monday, McConnell threatened American businesses with "serious consequences" if they spoke out against the rash of GOP voter suppression laws sweeping the nation. On Tuesday, he doubled down, saying, "My warning to corporate America is to stay out of politics." McConnell quickly added that he wasn't "talking about political contributions," because of course not. Effectively—"shut your traps and donate, or else the GOP will quit doing your bidding."

Perhaps being extorted isn't sitting so well with the GOP's corporate donor base. On Wednesday, McConnell tried to put a more genteel spin on his threat.

"I didn't say that very artfully yesterday," McConnell told Kentucky reporters, referring to his explicit threat. "They certainly are entitled to be involved in politics. They are," he conceded, referring to the corporations that have spoken out against Georgia's voter suppression law. "My principal complaint is they didn't read the darn bill," he said of corporate CEOs.

Gosh, golly gee, what a relief. For a second, it seemed as though McConnell had declared both the free enterprise and free speech of the corporate sector dead all in one breath. American businesses had to either toe the GOP line or suffer the consequences. It was quite a reversal for McConnell and Republicans, who have spent decades prioritizing the rights of corporations over the rights of everyday Americans, even when lives were on the line. But with corporate profits no longer aligning with Republicans' ongoing culture war, McConnell was drawing a line in the sand.

Let's be clear: The damage has been done. McConnell may be trying to soften the blow and give himself an out, but that threat was heard loud and clear in board rooms across the nation. And this is by no means the end of the story. The GOP's grievance politics will continue to be at odds with a culture that is rapidly outstripping Republicans and the increasing number of corporations trying to market to that culture.

It’s Time For Corporate America To Step Up And Defend Democracy

Reprinted with permission from DC Report

As the Senate minority tries to kill H.R. 1, which would add many more Americans to the voting rolls, there is a simple and effective mechanism to build support for the bill to expand the franchise.

Corporate America needs to step up or face a serious reputational risk for not supporting the For The People Act.

That bill would ensure voting by mail, which, despite fact-free Trumpian claims of fraud, works as well or better than in-person voting, It would make sure people are not limited to Tuesdays to cast ballots, a practice enacted early in America's history when men with property voted, but few working men cast ballots.

Passage in the Senate requires a 60-vote majority. How absurd. A minority of senators hold the power to prevent majority rule. Repealing or revising the filibuster rule would allow a majority vote to pass H.R. 1, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote if Republican resolve endures against popular voting.

But imagine if Corporate America comes out for H.R. 1 as strongly as it did recent efforts to oppress Latinx and LGBTQ Americans, which it would if pressure is brought to bear hard and credibly.

The most powerful economic force in America is corporations. Fewer than 3,300 companies control more than 80% of all business assets. This tiny slice of America's nearly six million companies rings up more than half the total corporate sales each year. And if there is one thing many of these corporation's CEOs have said again and again is that discrimination is bad for business.

Limiting the franchise is rank discrimination at its most base level, a threat to the strength of our democracy. Blocking voting is exactly what is sought by the Russian president and meddler, Vladimir Putin, who says democracy is a joke and less bluntly that dictators should rule. Putin, the man Trump said he admires and trusts, knows that over time a narrower voter base will divide and weaken the United States. Deny people their right to vote or impose barriers to casting ballots and America represents the privileged, not the people.

What could be more un-American than to keep people from voting? We literally fought a war over this since enslaved people, who by law were not human, could not vote. America spent more than seven decades seeking suffrage until women, at least nominally, got the right to vote a century ago in the 19th Amendment.

I can't imagine that a single one of those 3,266 big companies would publicly take a stand against enabling citizens to vote. That doesn't mean they don't practice racial, gender, and religious bigotry with their workers and customers, good intentions or not. All of the many formal complaints and lawsuits tell you that many of them do discriminate.

What you don't see is major companies proclaiming, as many did before the Civil Rights, Feminist and Gender equality movements, "bigots are us."

A Stain On America

Bigotry, especially racial and gendered bigotry, has been a stain on our country from before its founding. It's a stain that millions of people want to protect from the political solvent of government by the people because of their own prejudice and the benefits they perceive flow to them from limiting who votes.

Putting big companies on the spot can help change that. In the past, we've seen how as the dominant force in American life, the biggest corporations, can influence the law to reduce discrimination. These moves have not always been successful. But on the whole, they have been tremendously positive in moving America toward a society of equal justice for all.

In 2015 nearly 400 companies joined in asking our Supreme Court to strike down state laws barring same-sex marriage. The firms ranged from Aetna, Amazon, and Apple to Northrup Grumman to Zoom and Zynga. By a 5-4 vote, our Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges held that denying same-sex marriage violated a fundamental Constitutional right and violated the 14th Amendment due process and equal protection clauses.

That post-Civil War reform amendment has been under attack by Donald Trump, GOP leader Mitch McConnell, and a few senators because it grants citizenship to anyone born in American territory. Some people such as anti-taxers want to repeal the entire amendment, an argument I've heard at national gatherings. Some conventioneers believe our federal government is a criminal organization.

Proposals to repeal the 15th Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote regardless of race, have been under way among conservatives for more than a century. The libertarian Cato Institute has published in favor of enabling states to discriminate by effectively ignoring parts of our Constitution.

Corporate Interventions

Corporate America intervenes when it is smart for business. And that means when the public makes clear they will move their dollars to a competitor. Here are some examples of Corporate America doing the right thing to oppose bigotry laws.

Consider the silly bathroom bills that discriminated against people whose sexual orientation isn't binary. Republicans in North Carolina said their discriminatory legislation wouldn't cost the state a dime. In fact, the state suffered $3.8 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to a richly detailed Associated Press investigation.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, North Carolina's biggest company, was front and center in saying discrimination is bad for business. He told a March 2017 World Affairs Council meeting in Charlotte, just after a loudmouth bigot became president:

"Companies are moving to other places because they don't face an issue that they face here. What's going on that you don't know about? What convention decided to take you off the list? What location for a distribution facility took you off the list? What corporate headquarters consideration for a foreign company — there's a lot of them out there — just took you off the list because they just didn't want to be bothered with the controversy?"

A year earlier, Disney took a public stand against bigotry in Georgia. "Although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law." The company said the legislation would permit religious groups and organizations to discriminate based on sexuality.

The legislature passed that law, but Republican Nathan Deal, at the time Georgia's governor, vetoed it. "Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way," the governor said.

Arizona Discriminates

In 2010, after Arizona passed what amounted to a "show me your papers" law designed to discriminate against Latinx people, numerous companies, trade associations, and individual businesses canceled conventions, sales meetings, and other events in the Copper State, which as a territory was part of the Confederacy.

The companies were not alone. Cities from St. Paul to San Francisco adopted policies that banned most official travel to Arizona.

In 2012 our Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona's anti-Latinix law. It upheld only the section requiring police officers who lawfully stop someone for an unrelated reason to determine immigration status.

That surviving provision created a zone of bigotry so wide that one of my middle-aged children was caught in it. She looks as Latinx as I do, which is to say not at all. An Arizona patrol officer stopped and questioned her for 20 minutes. His grounds? Oregon license plates were on her car.

Repeatedly he asked where in Mexico she grew up, ignoring her New York driver's license, proper registration, and insurance documents and her careful civil statements that she was born in Northern California and had never been to Mexico. Such harassment under the pretense of law in Arizona remains commonplace.

Corporate pressure doesn't always work.

Indiana still has a bigotry law signed by Mike Pence more than a decade ago.

In 2016 more than 80 CEOs sent a letter to North Carolina's governor telling him they would invest and spend their money elsewhere if a bill barring any future protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people became law. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill anyway.

Politicians depend on donations from PACs, which in good measure are funded with corporate money. Money talks, especially in the Senate.

The smart move for those who want universal voting would be to put the heat on Corporate America and its trade associations. Organize friends in phone call chains and dial up the "stand up for America" U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers or these Digital Age trade associations.

Why Nature Needs A Right To Self-Defense

There was a white oak tree in Athens, Georgia, that was so treasured by the locals it was not owned by anyone, not even the city. It was an autonomous entity known as the The Tree that Owns Itself.

Around the 1820s, William Jackson, owner of the property where the oak resided, wrote a formal deed in which he proclaimed, "(I)n consideration of the great love I bear this tree and the great desire I have for its protection for all time, I convey entire possession of itself and all land within eight feet of the tree on all sides."

Naturally, age finally took its toll, and in 1942, the tree was downed by a big windstorm. Yet, its autonomy lives on! That's because residents took a seedling from the original and planted it in the same plot of land, and that offspring is still there, known as the Son of the Tree that Owns Itself.

One tree with the legal rights of selfhood is a sweet novelty, but what if all trees, watersheds, canyons and other natural ecosystems had a legal right to exist, thrive, evolve and regenerate? This concept of nature existing in its own right as a living entity — not merely as inert property to be extracted and exploited for profit — is the essence of a rapidly spreading Rights of Nature movement. A legal comprehension that Earth is an indivisible, interrelated and interdependent community of living beings is enormously empowering for the health of the planet but also for the ordinary families and local communities who're now routinely abused by profiteering corporate giants that plunder nature. All across our country (and around the world), people wake up to find that faraway financial elites have come in by stealth, using legalistic ruses to poison local waters, strip forests and fields, defile the air and otherwise destroy people's natural surroundings. Regulators and legislators, owned by the defilers, enable the plunder.

Sometimes, aloof corporate interests get absurdly, almost-comically hypocritical, yet they're so obtuse that they don't even realize it. In that case, is it still hypocrisy ... or are they just dimwitted?

To see this phenomenon in action, look at the histrionic outburst of horror emanating from a myriad of corporate bunkers over rising public approval for the idea that nature be given legal rights that are enforceable in courts. The Rights of Nature movement argues that if a mining conglomerate decapitates a mountain or a chemical giant dumps mercury in a bay, those injured citizens of our natural world ought to have their day in court. "Outrageous!" shriek the honchos of Corporate America. "The courts and legal rights are for people , not for pieces of property!"

Hello, hypocrisy. After all, what is a corporation? Not a person. Not a sentient, living creature — no brain, no pulse, no soul, no life. It's not even a real piece of property, just an inert document printed by a state. Yet, the owners of that piece of paper claim that it magically bestows "personhood" on their corporation, giving it the legal and political rights of real people. Yet, these "paper people" cry that Earth's actual living creatures, which they've felt free to destroy for their own profit, can't have any legal rights because they are just property. Excuse me, but a single drop of water has more life in it than all the corporations in the world.

Also, let's note that the long evolution of law has constantly progressed to transform "property" into beings with fundamental rights. Generations of enslaved people, indentured servants, women, child laborers and other humans have been brutally denied personhood — even the right to exist. Even that fight hasn't been won, but the body of legal (and moral) rights has grown, and it enhances our own humanity to recognize that we and nature are one. Crass corporate exploitation, on the other hand, diminishes all living things, threatening life itself.

Those who reflexively mock the Rights of Nature movement — scoffing at the idea of legal standing for marshes, grasslands, forest networks and other wildlife — might consider taking a moment by a quiet stream in the woods to ponder: Does nature need us, or do we need her?

To learn more, go to the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund website.

To find out more about Jim Hightower and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com

Republican Drift Toward Far Right Strains Traditional Business Ties

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The nation's most powerful business lobby has long been an ally of Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Now, that may be changing.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which calls itself the "world's largest business organization," and aims to "advocate for pro-business policies," has spent $1.6 billion on federal lobbying — more than double the next largest interest group — and more than $116 million on political expenditures since 1998. But in recent years, it has shifted its rhetoric, embracing more bipartisanship and commonsense policy solutions, as citizens demand more social responsibility from businesses.

An October poll found 68 percent of Americans want corporate CEOs to take a stand on social issues. Another survey, taken last June, found nearly 60 percent want the companies they use to take positions on issues like social justice and racial discrimination.

After years of almost exclusively backing Republicans, the Chamber also backed 23 House Democrats last year. Since President Joe Biden's victory, it has embraced several of his policy goals, lending some support for his social policies and government actions to help people.

Republican leaders, many of them bankrolled by the Chamber for years, claim the organization has "sold out" and are disowning their longtime benefactors.

"I don't want the U.S. Chamber's endorsement because they have sold out," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy complained in a September Fox Business interview. "It is hypocrisy that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would endorse the Democrats that are part of this socialist agenda that is driving this country out, and is fighting [Donald Trump]."

Senate Minority Leader McConnell told Politico at the time, "Honestly at this point, I think they're so confused about what they're about that they probably don't make much difference."

Earlier in February, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) told Politico the Chamber "has forgotten Main Street America" and must decide if "they really care about the bottom line of companies and small businesses and growth," or whether "they care more about social justice[.]"

Though congressional Republicans have taken millions from the Chamber's political action committee, relied on its massive outside spending, and bragged in the past of its support as a "pro-business" seal of approval, most have opposed its mainstream policy proposals and agenda.

That much was evident in January. Having already recognized Biden as the president-elect on the same day major news outlets projected him the winner back in November, the Chamber put out a statement on January 4 opposing efforts by congressional Republicans to overturn the results and declare Donald Trump the winner.

"Efforts by some members of Congress to disregard certified election results in an effort to change the election outcome or to try a make a long-term political point undermines our democracy and the rule of law and will only result in further division," the group said, urging Congress to "fulfill its responsibility" in certifying the Electoral College results, which sealed Biden's victory.

Despite its urging, 139 House Republicans and 8 GOP senators — a majority of congressional Republicans — voted to reject the election results on Jan. 6, the same day a riotous mob of pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol to stop that certification, fueled by GOP-led conspiracies about widespread voter fraud.

Overall, many congressional Republicans have moved far enough to the right that they are now mostly out of sync with the public, as well as the Chamber, an entity with which they long claimed to be allied, on a number of high profile issues.

Pandemic Relief

The Chamber of Commerce has embraced Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, specifically applauding its "focus on vaccinations and on economic sectors and families that continue to suffer as the pandemic rages on." It also endorsed Biden's mask mandate to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic relief bill and mask mandate would both help slow the crisis, ideally allowing businesses to safely reopen.

By contrast, congressional Republicans have railed against the proposal as "wasteful" and, in early February, House and Senate Republicans voted unanimously against advancing it. Several Republicans have refused to wear masks in public and have sought to overturn mask requirements.

Meanwhile, a December STAT-Harris poll found 75 percent support for mandatory mask use in public.

A Navigator Strategies poll released Thursday found 73 percent of Americans back the relief package — and even 53 percent of Republicans support it.

LGBTQ rights

In May 2019, the Chamber endorsed the Equality Act, which would update federal nondiscrimination laws to explicitly protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination. This came as part of a broader push for workplace inclusion, without regard for sexual orientation or gender identity.

But the Republican Party continues to fight against LGBTQ rights. When the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act that month, just eight Republicans voted for it — 173 voted against. Republicans then blocked it from even getting a vote in the Senate.

"Over 325 major businesses have joined HRC's Business Coalition for the Equality Act because they understand that equality is good for business," Beck Bailey, director of the Human Rights Campaign's Workplace Equality Program, said in an email. "In order to truly thrive at work, employees must be able to thrive outside of it. Employees and their families must have the uniform civil rights protections guaranteed to others to live unfettered by discrimination in other aspects of daily life."

A 2016 North Carolina law barring transgender people from using the bathroom matching their gender identity and blocking local nondiscrimination protections, for example, cost the state's economy billions after a national boycott.

"The Equality Act not only aligns with corporate values of fairness and inclusion, it just makes good business sense," Bailey noted.

A December poll found 70 percent support for the Equality Act — including 50 percent support among Trump voters.

Climate Change

After years of backing climate denial organizations and opposing climate action, like the Paris Agreement, the Chamber made a major shift in 2019. In what it has called an "update" to its approach, the group now says it embraces efforts to reduce climate change, including the possibility of a carbon tax.

Many in the GOP still deny climate change even exists. Opposition to the Paris accord is nearly universal among congressional Republicans and the party platform rejects both a carbon tax and the treaty.

Climate change is a huge threat to businesses, which are already feeling its negative impacts and recognize things could get much worse. A 2014 report to investors by Chipotle, for example, warned that extreme weather "associated with global climate change" may "have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients," forcing them to stop serving salsas and guacamole.

A Pew poll last June found 65 percent of Americans do not believe the federal government is doing enough to stem climate change and 73 percent supported a carbon emissions tax on corporations.

Adam Beitman, Sierra Club senior communications strategist for federal policy, said in an email: "We know the costs of inaction are far greater than those tied to the opportunities of investing in a clean energy economy that works for all and tackles the climate crisis."

He noted however that the Chamber still had much to prove in its dedication to environmental efforts. "Unfortunately, the Chamber of Commerce has and continues to be one of the greatest roadblocks to significant climate action in Washington, D.C. rhetoric notwithstanding," he said.

Immigration Reform

The Chamber has thrown its support behind comprehensive immigration reform and the Dream Act, a bill to offer legal protections and a path to citizenship for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children by their parents.

With millions of skilled and educated workers and entrepreneurs hoping to become citizens, these reforms could provide businesses with their future employees and leaders.

A Vox and Data for Progress poll released this month found 69 percent of likely voters support a path to citizenship for undocumented people already in the country who can pass a background check and pay their taxes.

But few Republicans in Congress have backed immigration reform, even for Dreamers.

Bruna Sollod, communications director at United We Dream, said in an interview that the COVID-19 pandemic "really shined a light on the impact of all immigrants," showing how essential those workers area. She noted that Dreamers, protected by executive action, "are business owners [and] have jobs that keep communities thriving."

Minimum Wage

While the Chamber has historically opposed plans to raise the minimum wage, it has expressed openness to an "increase guided by economic conditions."

For the most part, congressional Republicans have opposed any efforts to raise the federal minimum — which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. McConnell blocked a House-passed increase last year and has long opposed increases as "not the way to grow our economy."

But polls show wide public support for a higher wage floor. One recent survey of voters in swing House districts found 62 percent support for increasing the hours minimum wage to $15 by 2025.

An increase would lift hundreds of thousands of workers out of poverty. While some experts predict it would cost jobs, others say those claims are dubious or leave out crucial context.

"The business community, from the Chamber to small business groups, recognizes we're long overdue for a minimum wage increase," Paul Sonn, state policy program director at National Employment Law Project, said in an email. "The fact that the Republican leadership continues to fight it shows they're neither protecting business interests nor their own constituents — who make up the lion's share of workers who would be helped, and who polls show overwhelmingly back a wage increase."

Ending Systemic Racism

The Chamber has also embraced the Black Lives Matter movement and backed anti-racism efforts. A 2018 report on its website makes the "Business Case for Racial Equity," highlighting that goal as "both an imperative for social justice and a strategy for economic growth."

But many congressional Republicans have demonized the Black Lives Matter movement as dangerous Marxists who they baselessly claim want to destroy the nuclear family. The GOP has also strongly opposed police reform efforts and most Republican representatives voted last July to keep Confederate monuments in the U.S. Capitol.

The public, meanwhile, has mostly backed the anti-racism movement. Polls last year showed majority support for Black Lives Matter and for removing Confederate monuments from public places.

"A growing number of business leaders realize that taking action to promote racial justice is not only the right thing to do, it's also fundamentally good for business," said Gaylynn Burroughs, senior policy counsel at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Simply put, when communities of color thrive, businesses thrive. Savvy business leaders understand that systemic racism and white supremacy are clear threats to not only our nation as whole, but the success and growth of their businesses as well."

Rather than listen to the business community's calls for moderation, McCarthy has tried to spin the GOP as now being on the side of workers.

Despite a long record of undermining labors right and a website boasting of prioritizing "a business-friendly environment," the California Republican claimed on February 8 that Republicans today are "the American workers' party."

The Chamber of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

How Consumers Pushed Corporate America To Defend Democracy

The board of Goya Foods has just forbidden its CEO, Robert Unanue, from talking to the media without first obtaining board permission. Do you know how extraordinary that is? Well, these are extraordinary times.

A month after the deadly attack on the Capitol, Unanue has continued to spread the false claim that prompted it — that former President Donald Trump was denied a second term because of voter fraud. He told Fox Business that Joe Biden's election was "unverified" and that there was a "war coming." That was the last straw for the Goya board.

Business decisions obviously play a part in companies' decision to risk losing some customers in defense of the democracy. They are exposing themselves to the type of political controversy they habitually avoid.

No executive has tied himself more tightly, by the ankles and wrists, to Trumpian conspiracy theories than Mike Lindell, founder and head of MyPillow. And that has made his brand toxic to many consumers. Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl's, H-E-B and Wayfair are among the retail giants to drop the MyPillow line. For many shoppers traumatized by the insurrection, just seeing that brand on the way to the shower curtains reawakens their disgust.

Twitter cut off Lindell as well, not only his personal account but also the MyPillow account. Dominion Voting Systems has already sued Trump ally Rudy Giuliani for knowingly spreading lies that its machines produced fraudulent results and is now threatening to go after Lindell for defamation, big time. Legal scholars say Dominion's case is strong and MyPillow could have its clock cleaned.

On the finance side, Shopify has taken down Trump's online stores. Stripe, PayPal and Square have stopped helping Trump World process payments. Deutsche Bank, Trump's one remaining major banker, says it's now through with him.

The PGA, meanwhile, has refused to hold its championship tournament at Trump's New Jersey golf club. When golf drops Trump, you know he's being dropped — and that the fear of losing customers as a result is less than fear of being associated with him.

The timeline at Goya offers a case in point. Last July, when Unanue campaigned with Trump, many Latinos and some anti-Trump groups called for a boycott of the Hispanic-owned food company's products. Trump supporters responded with a "buy-cott," urging their ranks to buy Goya products.

Who won? Sales driven by COVID-fueled demand for canned goods were hot early on. After July, though, Goya sales growth withered. And the board has discussed replacing Unanue, an anonymous source told CNN.

Unanue is not being "censored," as some news reports put it. Nor is Lindell a victim of cancel culture, as he insists. Both are free to mouth off, just as their customers are free to bypass a product they associate with appalling behavior.

To be clear on the issues involved, I never cared whether Unanue or Lindell liked or voted for Trump. But their tying the prestige of their companies to the Trump campaign made buying their products feel like a kind of Trump endorsement.

Let's end with the case of Mark Hastings, CEO of BarProducts.com. Hastings foolishly posted pictures of himself in front of the Capitol during the riots — and wearing a Trump hat, no less. An instant social media campaign was launched to boycott his products.

As a bar manager at the Graduate Hotel in Seattle wrote on Facebook, "This is a person I've given money to and in some way, I feel a little responsible for funding him to be there."

Americans are putting their consumer dollars on the side of democracy. Most of corporate America seems to have noticed.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.