Legislature to allow civil unions.
Not surprisingly, Nike’s support of
the legislation, which was not
passed, prompted action from the
AFA, which sent an e-mail alert to
members asking them to express
their indignation in letters, e-mails
and phone calls to Nike.
“Homosexual activists are working
to get other corporations to follow
the lead of Nike,” warned the
AFA, which declined to participate
in this story.
In a statement to the Legislature,
Wes Coleman, Nike’s vice president
of global human resources, said that
the nondiscrimination provisions
contained within the bill were consistent with Nike’s corporate policies. “One of the Nike maxims is to
‘Do the Right Thing,’ which asks
our employees not to look for things
that make us different but to look
for things that make us better,” he
said. “Many of our employees’ lives
will be better because of the passage
of these bills.”
At the end of 2005, JPMorgan
Chase initiated an ongoing dialogue
between its GLBT employee-resource group, PRIDE, and its
executive vice president of global
government relations and public
policy, Rick Lazio. PRIDE representatives meet with Lazio each quarter
to discuss legislative issues that
affect GLBT employees, such as a
recent decision in Hillsborough
County, Fla., where JPMorgan
Chase has a large work force, to ban
county government from acknowledging, promoting or participating
in gay-pride events.
Giving GLBT employees a way to express their concerns to company leaders gives them an outlet and
helps JPMorgan Chase learn more about what concerns
its employees, Flautt says.
It’s not uncommon for large companies to weigh in
on political and legal battles. When the University of
Michigan was fighting to save its affirmative-action system, 68 Fortune 500 companies filed amicus briefs
supporting the school.
“I think corporations understand that healthy, happy
citizens make productive employees and they’re increasingly becoming involved in public-policy debate to support national antidiscrimination efforts,” Herrschaft says.
That might fuel the ire of socially conservative
groups, but it’s more important to stay true to company
values, says Vada Manager, director of global-issues management at Nike.
“We don’t go out of our way to be overly provocative or pick fights,” he says. “We’re first and foremost
guided by our mission and policies and what is good
for the employee base … We don’t expect everyone to
agree with us. But in this case, we don’t believe we can
have two classes of employees.”
Referring to both Wells Fargo’s and Nike’s recent
scrapes with socially conservative groups, Herrschaft
says, “Those stories never had legs because the companies never strayed.”
In both cases, consistency was key, he adds. “Being
seen as not holding firm to values, changing to the
wind, raises a lot of questions from consumers and
shareholders and that detracts from a company’s ability
to stay focused on business,” he says.
Ng agrees. “This market, especially, is politically
savvy, is aware of what real support and real commitment looks like, is not easily fooled by single decisions.
This community, because we’ve had to be—speaking as
a member of the community—we’ve had to be politically savvy to know our allies. We’re not fooled by
Learning From Missteps
Inconsistency was part of the problem surrounding Ford’s
recent GLBT public-relations nightmare. Confusion
abounded in December amid conflicting stories about
Ford’s GLBT-advertising plans. After the automaker
decided to stop advertising Jaguar and Land Rover in
GLBT publications, the AFA announced that the
automaker had bowed to its pressure.
The AFA had called for a boycott of the company
earlier in the year but quickly reversed itself to try to
work out its issue—that Ford was pro-GLBT. Between
May and November, the AFA claimed, the group met