With the economy ever tanking, now is as good a time as any to take stock of where your gay dollars are going. You may not have much (or, thanks to prudent investing in gold and shares in Mr. Hobo J. Poverschmidt’s Hobo Sticks Emporium, you may have quite a bit), so why spend it on companies whose executives use their cash to fund anti-gay bills or who refuse their gay employees the same benefits as their straight co-workers? With legislators using the economy as an excuse not to move on gay rights bills, we present this list so that you can vote with your dollar and hit homophobic executives where it hurts most.
These are the 10 worst companies for gays and lesbians, chosen for their national influence, prominence, history of corporate bigotry and the likelihood you can do something about it. Not a single one of them deserves a nickel.
Owned by Terry Caster, A-1 is one of California’s largest storage rental companies, with over 40 locations in the state. The owner and his family donated $693,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign, making then the 2nd largest individual donors to the measure. Caster defended his donation, telling the San Diego Tribune, “Without solid marriage, you are going to have a sick society.” Since November, three protests against the company have been staged by Californians Against Hate and a boycott is ongoing.
How They’re Faring: As a family-owned, private business, there’s little way to tell how the company is faring and there’s been no recent business news about A-1.
What You Can Do: Activists have set-up a website asking people to boycott the company as well as call the customer support line to voice let them know why they are taking their business elsewhere.
“America’s number one retailer of auto parts and accessories” continues to refuse domestic partner benefits for employees. AutoZone, a Fortune 500 company, also has a history of being a hostile workforce to women and in 2006,was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
How They’re Faring: Depends on who you ask. Shares of AutoZone hit a new 52-week high Friday, closing at $146.39 per share, up $3.81 or 2.67 percent for the day, but at least one stock forecaster says AutoZone is ripe for shorting.
What You Can Do: Currently, there is no organized boycott action against AutoZone. Their customer service number is 1-800-859-3282.
A Fortune 1000 Company, Brown-Forman distributes Jack Daniels, Southern Comfort, Finlandia Vodkas, Herradura Tequila, Sonoma-Cutrer Wines, Fetzer Wines, Korbel Champagne, Bolla Wines, Bonterra Wines, but provides no comfort to its gay and lesbian employees, refusing even basic domestic partner benefits.
How They’re Faring: B.F. is currently trading at $41.70, up marginally from their mid-November 52 week low of $38 dollars, but over the past 10 years has had an average of 8.3% growth annually.
What You Can Do: This one makes the list because it’s so easy for you to make a difference. Stop drinking the brands Brown-Forman distributes. If you’re out at a gay bar and see a bottle of SoCo or Jack Daniels on the shelf (which you will at just about any gay bar), let them know that they’re serving up their whiskey with a chaser of hate and ask them to consider taking it down off the shelf—though you may want to do this the next day while sober and not while loudly screaming at your bartender. With so many gay-friendly liquor companies, there’s no reason to put Brown-Forman booze in your gullet.
UPDATE: Sean Wachsman, P.R. Manager for Southern Comfort writes:
“I noticed you have included Brown-Forman on this list, so I wanted to provide you with some updated information. Brown-Forman began offering domestic partner benefits in January 2009, amended our EEO policy to include gender identity or expression and have created a GLBT Resource Group, among other GLBT efforts.
These changes reflect a genuine desire, on the part of our leadership, to create an inclusive organization. We hope you will provide this current information to your readers and revise your top 10 list by removing Brown-Forman.”
Regular Queerty readers know our feelings about Cinemark CEO Alan Stock, who donated $9,999 dollars to the Yes on 8 campaign. Operating also under the name Tinseltown, CineArts and Century Theaters, Cinemark delivers the sort of highbrow, artistic films that appeal to gays. Despite multiple boycotts, including one at Sundance, neither Stock nor Cinemark have pledged to change anything, other than to send out form letters saying, “It would be inappropriate to influence our employees’ position on personal issues outside the work environment, especially on political, social or religious activities,” to people who write asking for Cinemark to take a stand.
How They’re Faring: Need proof that boycotts are effective? Look no further than Cinemark. While almost all movie chains saw their stock tumble in the October crash, Cinemark has regained little of its value as competitors like Regal Cinemas have shown moderate improvement. Cinemark now trades at half of what it did in September, hovering at $7.99/ share.
What You Can Do: Continue boycotting Cinemark. Next week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments for and against invalidating Prop. 8 and now’s as good a time as any to renew your commitment to eat your popcorn in a place that isn’t run by a bigot.
Another case of CEOs and management using their prominent position and hefty salary to put down gays and lesbians, Domino’s founder Tom Monaghan is a co-founder of the Thomas More Law Center, which recently defended the San Diego Fire Fighters who won a lawsuit claiming they were sexually harassed by being forced to March in a gay pride parade. Monaghan also financed a 2001 ballot initiative to remove sexual orientation from Ypsilanti, Michigan’s, non-discrimination ordinance. David Brandon, the current CEO, opposes gay marriage and brushed off questions about Domino’s decision not to extend health benefits to spouses of gay employees when asked about in 2006 saying when he ran for Regent of the University of Michigan, explaining why he doesn’t support non-discrimination by saying,
“I don’t understand why we continually have to have discussions about who should and who shouldn’t be included, in terms of our nondiscrimination policy, because I think identifying specific, special-interest groups or specific entities within the institution almost implies that unless you’re on that list, then somehow we think you should be treated differently than people who are on that list. It should not be about lists.”
How They’re Faring: So so. Domino’s lost about half of its stock value in the crash, but has been steadily gaining traction since and now trades at $6.49/ share, down from a 52-week high of $15.33.
What You Can Do: Weirdly, just about everyone from all sides of the political spectrum have called for a boycott on Domino’s. Conservatives decry their decision to open a halal-only branch of the pizzeria in the UK and the National Organization of Women boycott the store for the company’s decision last year to donate $50,000 to a pro-life group.
As a church, the Salvation Army is exempt from state anti-gay discrimination laws and the evangelical Christian organization takes advantage of it every chance they get. The Salvation Army openly says that “practicing homosexuals” aren’t welcome in their organization and they have lobbyists in D.C. and abroad who work to prevent gay rights legislation from being enacted.
How They’re Faring: One of the other benefits of being a church is that you don’t have to reveal your financial documents.
What You Can Do: Come Christmas, don’t drop your nickels in that red kettle, no matter how much Santa Claus tempts you to.
Doug Manchester, owner of San Diego’s Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, Grand del Mar Resort and Whitetail Club and Resort in Idaho gave $125,000 to Yes on Prop 8 campaign. PlanetOut Inc., the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and the Human Rights Campaign all dropped any association with the hotel last year once it was learned that Manchester was using his cash to put Prop. 8 on the ballot.
How They’re Faring: Another privately owned company, another completely opaque ledger book.
What You Can Do: You can join the ongoing boycott organized by Californians Against Hate.
3. Urban Outfitters (with one caveat)
As we were putting this list together, we knew Urban Outfitters, whose chairman, Richard Hayne, regularly supports anti-gay legislation and GOP candidates who vote against gay rights, was going to be on the list. In November, the company quickly removed t-shirts supporting gay marriage from their stores. However, one small glimmer of change occurred last week when the store announced that the t-shirts were back and that 100 percent of its “Marriage Equality” t-shirt sales are going to Equality California and National Center for Lesbian Rights, both major players in the upcoming Supreme Court hearing in California.
How They’re Faring:Urban Outfitters has lost more than 50% of its stock value this year, trading now at just over $16.
What You Can Do: A boycott against Urban Outfitters has been going on for years, but the recent t-shirt decision gives gays and lesbians the opportunity to use the carrot as well as the stick. Write to Urban Outfitters and thank them for their decision to support gay rights organizations.
Wal-Mart does not offer domestic partner benefits except in locations required by law. In addition, while Wal-Mart is the largest retailer of books in the country, it refuses to carry any LGBT-related titles. In 2008, after Christian Conservative groups threatened a boycott, Wal-Mart left the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, with a spokesperson saying the company had decided not “to support or oppose highly controversial issues.”
How They’re Faring: Wal-Mart’s growth has slowed over the past few years and like all retailers, the company has felt the crunch. That said, stock-guru and angry man Jim Cramer said Monday, “Wal-mart is the only retailer I’m recommending. I think it’s terrific, I’d pull the trigger under $46 a share.”
What You Can Do: While the conservative threats of boycott forced Wal-Mart to change their limited support for gay and lesbian rights, there’s been no move by gays and lesbians to boycott in return.
Rated a 0 by the HRC on gay and lesbian worker’s rights, ExxonMobil is the largest Fortune 500 company to offer no domestic partner benefits. In 1999, when the two companies merged, they eliminated domestic-partner benefits for same-sex partners. The company also consistently refuses to ban discrimination based on orientation and gender identity, except where required by law.
How They’re Faring: While the rest of the economy is tanking, ExxonMobil tankers, laden with liquid gold, have helped the company reap record profits. On Monday, major brokerage firm Deutsche Bank upgraded Exxon Mobil Corp. from a ‘hold’ to a ‘buy’.
What You Can Do: Take public transportation to work. You’ll not only be hurting big oil’s anti-gay employment practices, you’ll be helping the environment as well.
What do you think about boycotts? We’d love to hear about your own personal financial decisions and if you ever choose to shop elsewhere because of a company’s policies. Let us know about it in the comments.