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More Dialog with NGLCC Re: Wal-Mart

Posted by ColoradoPatriot at 9:00 pm - July 25, 2007.
Filed under: Advocate Watch,Economy

Friends, please forgive my tardiness in writing further about NGLCC’s newly-ended relationship with Wal-Mart. My original post is here. I left on vacation the day after I posted, and to be honest, I didn’t really expect Justin Nelson, co-founder and president of the organization to write back. Well, to his credit, he did write back, and his response is here:

Nick,

Much appreciation for your note about NGLCC and Wal-Mart. I would just open with a statement that it would be easy to work with companies that are 100 percent on our issues 100 percent of the time. Unfortunately, if that were the case, the universe of companies with whom we work would get awfully small awfully quick and progress on our issues would not progress. As a business advocacy organization – and I would offer as any organization that represents all or part of the LGBT segment — it is our responsibility to continually push corporations to do better, to respect their LGBT employees, customers and of course, suppliers. We have had much success in this arena – millions of dollars are now being spent with companies that are LGBT owned as part of corporate supplier diversity programs that was not previously the case. By this I mean that LGBT owned companies are now part of many corporate diverse supply chains, much as ethnic minorities, women owned businesses, service disabled veterans and other diverse groups. This is all good news for the community.

Our partnership with Wal-Mart was an effort to bring their company up to speed with regard to their corporate practices and how they affect our community. A year later, admittedly, reviews are mixed. They are working on benefits for their LGBT employees, although not quickly enough. There are LGBT owned companies that are now major suppliers to Wal-Mart, although not enough. When we made our agreement it was based on what I considered to be a series of benchmarks that needed to be met throughout the course of the last year for the partnership to be extended. Simply put, they didn’t meet them, and they did not pay their corporate membership dues – both of which we felt were grounds for not renewing membership.

It is my job to ensure opportunities for LGBT companies to compete in the marketplace, make connections to grow their businesses and constantly think about how more dollars can be spent with our community enterprises. I will not always be right, but rest assured, I will always be right in my reasons for pursuing a partnership, pushing companies that need to be pushed and doing everything I and the NGLCC can do to adequately educate decision makers about our community.

Again, I appreciate your note. As a fellow westerner (I was born and raised in Wyoming and LOVE Colorado), I am pleased to know of your interest in what we are doing and the work you do to educate our community about issues of importance.

Warm regards,

Justin

As gracious and open-minded as he was to engage (I did let him know I’d be publishing his responses), his response left me with more questions. Here’s what I wrote back:

Justin:

Again, thanks for the reply, and sorry for the delay. It was a great trip.

I suppose what confuses me and some of our readers is what it means to be a member of your Corporate Advisory Council. As of today, your website lists members of that organization as representatives from Wyndham International Resorts and Hotels, JPMorgan Chase, IBM, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (oddly), Cisco Systems, American Airlines, AVIS,
Motorola, Intel Corporation, Wells Fargo & Company, and Cendant. Of these corporations, only AVIS and Cendant (and Wal-Mart) didn’t receive a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2006 Corporate Equality Index (AVIS wasn’t rated, and Cendant scored a 75%).

Now, I recognize that your organization is not affiliated with (nor beholden to, thank Heavens) HRC. Still, it seems curious that Wal-Mart would find itself in such company (when its score was in the 60s). Especially curious is your reasoning for affiliating yourself with Wal-Mart in the first place: “[In] an effort to bring their company up to speed with regard to their corporate practices and how they affect our community.” It almost seems a habilitative relationship. But is that the same relationship you have with the other members of the CAC? I can’t imagine so.

Why would you place the representative from what seems, based on your response to have been a probationary (“a series of benchmarks that needed to be met throughout the course of the last year for the partnership to be extended “) corporation in such a high place of honor? How, I wonder, were they received by the other, well-established groups in that Council? Is this common practice? When in the past have you named a corporation to the CAC with such a poor record on gay-rights in hopes, it seems, that they’d come around?

Also, your original press-release (for some reason, now missing from your website, but cached here on ours), made no mention whatsoever of these “benchmarks”, nor their ties to continuation of the relationship. And why not mention that in the press release wherein you announce the end of your relationship?

I’ll go ahead and call it as I see it, Justin: Given that Wal-Mart had (as you concede), made headway (“although not enough”), it would seem to me that such a collosas which suffered onslaught from their usual supporters on your (and our) behalf is entitled to something more gracious, especially considering the gains they did make. Don’t you think? How likely is Wal-Mart to continue its move toward our community after how they’ve been portrayed? How are other corporations willing to reach out to our community to read the curt way in which this relationship was ended? Do you feel this will encourage other businesses to help our community?

I appreciate your honesty and willingness (and guts) to share your insights with our readers, and am looking forward to hearing back,

Best,
Nick (ColoradoPatriot)

And I do look forward to (and anticipate) his reply. Justin seems a straight-shooter, and deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, as a self-declared representative of our community, he also should be held to these questions. More soon, I’m sure….

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11 Comments

  1. I think I’ve lost the thread of this whole thing, Nick. Could you give us the Cliff Notes version?

    What I can gather, is:
    1) Walmart gave the NGLCC (btw: check present spelling in the post’s title) $25,000. Sounds good.
    2) Walmart is making some progress on the NGLCC’s rehabilitative “benchmarks”, standing up to anti-gay pressure. Again: kudos to Walmart.
    3) However, Walmart doesn’t earn a perfect 100% rating? and didn’t pay NGLCC dues?
    4) So NGLCC is rejecting them?

    Is that what it comes down to?

    Unless there’s more to it… it does seem like NGLCC is rejecting a potential / improving community friend for short-sighted reasons.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — July 25, 2007 @ 9:49 pm - July 25, 2007

  2. This is a shakedown, Jesse Jackson-style. Once they paid part of Justin’s salary, they set the precedent that will never be satisfied. The goal posts will always move ever further until Wal-Mart sponsors Pride parades, buys advertising space in print media advocating gay marriage, and until its payroll is rife with homosexuals. Justin’s ‘…although not enough…’ will never be enough until Wal-Mart is the docile, servile company remade in the collective mind of the NGLCC.

    Don’t like Wal-Mart? Don’t shop there. Want a pro-gay one-stop shopping experience? Start your own. Want to protest Wal-Mart’s performance re. ‘gay issues’ (whatever NGLCC happens to decide they are), go right ahead; a Wal-Mart stand against this kind of pressure will attract many new shoppers, myself among them.

    As for Wal-Mart, I hope that better minds begin making its community relations decisions. Wal-Mart offers gay people great prices and should never be required by anyone to do anymore.

    Comment by HardHobbit — July 25, 2007 @ 10:53 pm - July 25, 2007

  3. […] Original post by ColoradoPatriot […]

    Pingback by Politics: 2008 HQ » Blog Archive » More Dialog with NGLCC Re: Wal-Mart — July 25, 2007 @ 11:02 pm - July 25, 2007

  4. Does anyone have any idea how much time elapsed between Hillary divesting herself of all Wal-mart holdings and when NGLCC ended their relationship with them? I bet its a couple of weeks max.

    “Not fast enough?” …my shiny metal ass! Libs dont like walmart cus walmart wont unionize. Period end of story. The same reason they hire people to picket walmart at minimum wage with no benefits, and give them signs that decry Walmarts supposed low wages and poor benefits.

    But on the positive side, I am willing to wager the number of Americans who have ever heard of, or care one whit about, the NGLCC is less than the combined total of those employed by NGLCC and their immediate families.

    Comment by Will — July 26, 2007 @ 5:51 am - July 26, 2007

  5. You people are good at finding conspiracies where none seem to exist. Yes, Will, I am *sure* that former Craig Thomas staffer Justin Nelson is jumping to Hillary Clinton’s commands. Yes, HardHobbit, it must have been a Jesse Jackson-style shakedown! That is BRILLIANT!

    Blinders off, boys. Did you bother to *read* Justin’s response? Here are the key words:

    “they did not pay their corporate membership dues”

    You know what happens when you don’t pay your dues to the Main Street USA Chamber of Commerce, right?

    The clear facts are that the NGLCC went out on a limb last year to work with Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart didn’t hold up its end of the deal, and the relationship ended. One can consider it fortunate or unfortunate, but it is what it is: an unsuccessful business dealing.

    It happens. Deal with it.

    Comment by Famous Author Rob Byrnes — July 26, 2007 @ 7:08 am - July 26, 2007

  6. Welcome to GayPatriot, FARB.

    Comment by GayPatriot — July 26, 2007 @ 9:07 am - July 26, 2007

  7. #1: ILC, thanks for the spelling tip (vacation still running my brain to some degree). Not sure how much the dues were. Other than that, your synopsis seems about right.

    #2: HH, I’m not so ready to crucify the NGLCC just yet. The situation does seem to lend itself to what you’re suggesting a little bit, but like I said, I think the organization deserves the chance to respond before we leap to that conclusion. After all, it did show balls for Justin to reply in the first place; and with a plausible explanation. Let’s wait to see what he has to say before we string him up. (By the way, I hope for his sake, $25K doesn’t even make a dent in his salary)

    #5: FARB, Surprisingly, I kind of agree with you. What troubles me, though, is that if you’re correct, all it seems to take to curry favor with this group is paying them off. So perhaps HH has more of a point than you allow. Isn’t the NGLCC supposed to represent us? As such, why should it allow a corporation with a poor record such status simply because it threw money at them. Call me a romantic, but it seems to me it should take more than a big donation to earn kudos from the Chamber of Commerce.

    All that said, generally CoC’s have what I’d describe as mercurial political tendencies; which is to say, they often take stands on political issues that seem counter to those of their constituencies. For example, in Colorado, the Denver Chamber of Commerce a couple years ago backed the rollback of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), even though it would cost their members more in increased business taxes. I have a friend who works for the CoC who’s tried many times to explain the reasoning with little success. Perhaps this is again, one of those weird things CoCs do?

    Comment by ColoradoPatriot — July 26, 2007 @ 9:29 am - July 26, 2007

  8. Wal-Mart came under pressure from the right-wing wackjobs and didn’t pay their dues. It seems like this was entirely their decision, as the only result of not paying your dues would be that your membership in the organization would be terminated. The NGLCC response just strikes me as some kind of “you didn’t dump me, I dumped you” ass-covering.

    Really, NGLCC, Wal-Mart would rather take the AFA to the prom than you. Stop acting embarrased about it and start spreading rumors that Wal-Mart only dumped you because the AFA puts out. And then find a new date that actually cares about you.

    Comment by JonboyDC — July 26, 2007 @ 12:03 pm - July 26, 2007

  9. CP, you’re far more generous than I. Any organization whose name contains the words ‘National’, ‘Gay’, and ‘Lesbian’ and claims to speak to ‘our’ issues (I’m amazed at how many people want to speak for me — I’m flattered, really, but I’ve never been part of ‘our’) is in my view one to avoid. Wal-Mart should have politely declined the NGLCC’s pious rehabilitation program and risked bad press instead of paying $25K and getting bad press. Wal-Mart will always get bad press — no reason to pay for it, however small the amount.

    Don’t like my shakedown analogy? A corporate protection racket works: “You don’t pay, we smear, see? Pay up and we’ll just think ’bout it — we’ll have a few drinks, a few laughs. Our ratings system ain’t definite, see, and ya gotta pay for what ya get. Like life, comprende? But this is our clambake, so shut your piehole and keep us in the green, kapisch?”

    The combination of buggery and thuggery ain’t nothin’ new.

    (This week HardHobbit is SuspiciousHobbit.)

    Comment by HardHobbit — July 26, 2007 @ 4:55 pm - July 26, 2007

  10. Excuse me, but Walmart is in the business of selling things. All employees should be treated the same way. Why should any one group get special consideration for anything? Unless you need wheelchair access.

    And corporate supplier diversity programs? What the heck is that?
    Maybe LGBT should quit whining, take some Midol, and start their own Gaymart like most ambitious entrepreneurs would do if they see a market that needs filling.

    Comment by Ana — July 28, 2007 @ 10:25 am - July 28, 2007

  11. Okay, first of all, I have to say that Bruce madee me laugh in comment #6. My hat is off to him; I have been reading GP on and off for years, but somehow missed the self-deprecating (blog-deprecating?) sense of humor. So thanks for that.

    The rest of the comments, well… people seem determined to find a conspiracy, or at least assume one exists until proven otherwise. If I read Kos (which I don’t), I could wallow in the same mindset.

    Gentlemen, sometimes a cigar is really, truly, absolutely a cigar.

    Comment by Famous Author Rob Byrnes — July 29, 2007 @ 12:21 am - July 29, 2007

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