Exxon Mobil earned a record breaking $45.2 billion in 2008, shattering the previous record annual profit for a U.S. company of $40.6 billion — which Exxon Mobil set the previous year. (Earnings in 2005 were $36 billion, also a record.) So how much of that fat wad did the oil giant spend on making sure gay and transgender employees were protected?
For the tenth year in a row, shareholders voted on whether to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its list of equal employment opportunity classes, right there next to race and sex. And for the tenth year in a row, they voted no.
Is it all bad news? Maybe not.
When the measure first came up for a vote in 1999, just 8.2 percent of shareholders voted for it; last week, 39.3 percent voted for it (down slightly from last year’s 39.6 percent). Every year for the past decade, the New York City Comptroller’s Office (on behalf of the New York City Pension Fund, a shareholder) introduces the equality measure. Perhaps stymieing the effort are the number of proposals shareholders must vote on every year; you can imagine how many things a company like Exxon Mobil must manage. (Though isn’t that the excuse Barack Obama supporters are foolishly using for his failing to move on equal rights? “He’s too busy!”)
Notes the Dallas Voice:
Ballots containing all the resolutions submitted for that year are mailed to stockholders in April, and the votes are taken at the annual stockholders meeting, generally held on the last Wednesday in May.
Robb Puckett of Dallas, co-chair of HRC’s National Business Council, attended this week’s stockholders meeting to speak in support of the resolution. He said no one spoke against the resolution, but both he and Luther agreed that the Exxon Mobile board’s continuing refusal to even consider the change is a huge obstacle to overcome.
“The number of resolutions considered at the Exxon Mobil shareholders meetings is probably more than a lot of other organizations have. The majority of them are tied to environmental issues or to governance issues, and our resolution kind of gets buried under all the others,” Puckett said.
“When it comes down to the average, everyday shareholder,” he continued, “you have to wonder if they actually take the time to read each resolution, or if they just vote on all of them the way the board recommends.”
And so far, Luther said, the Exxon Mobile board has steadfastly refused to even talk to LGBT advocates about the possibility of a change.
“We would welcome the opportunity to talk to them about this, but so far, that isn’t happening,” Luther said.
But the “too busy” excuse may not be entirely true, given Exxon’s history of permitting discrimination.
When Exxon merged with Mobil in 1999, the new company got rid of Mobil’s non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation; it also got rid of Mobil’s domestic partnership benefits for new employees. Noted CNN in 2006: “Its actions have put ExxonMobil is out of step with the biggest public companies. All but two companies in the FORTUNE 100— Plains All American Pipeline (Research), an energy firm based in Houston, is the other exception—prohibit discrimination against gays.”
And make no mistake: Exxon Mobil is not about “powering the world” or “finding new, clean energy sources.” It is a company built on making money hand over fist, which explains why it did away with same-sex partner benefits during the merger, and enjoys a shareholder culture that refuses to do more for employees than the law requires.
Meanwhile, without a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act to force companies like Exxon Mobil into protecting GLBTs, the Human Rights campaign has a list of other more queer-friendly places to fill up.