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Gays should look at the private sector

By Sean Kosofsky

Why do we demand less from corporations than we do governments? We own both.

It doesn't make sense. As a politically astute and relatively influential community, lgbt people have come farther and faster than any other disenfranchised group in American history. Obviously we owe this success to the foundations laid in the feminist, labor, anti-war, and black civil rights movements, but queers need to demand more!

We bitch and moan about public policy measures and how hard it is to pass civil rights and hate crime laws, yet we continue to forget and often overlook the powerful role we have played in the private sector, especially with large corporations.

Economic justice needs to be a prime focus of the queer community. Like feminism, it is our battle also. Supporting organized labor, higher wages, better health care benefits, and overall corporate responsibility is inherently linked to overall issues of fairness and equality. Queer "Republicans" balk at this while remaining loyal to the party that heralds individual gain and mocks the idea of progress in society for the masses.

We only have a chance to hold public officials accountable through the ballot boxes once every election cycle, however, we can influence the corporate world every single day. The queer community has been known to engage in some pretty successful campaigns to place "economic sanctions" of sorts on corporations like Coors, Domino's and Cracker Barrel. We must demand more from these companies. The private sector is already light years ahead of the government in terms of glbt-friendly policies so why not build and use that leverage to affect public policy?

If corporations employing 50, 100, or 100,000 people start passing policies, offering benefits and cutting checks to our cause, the government will inevitably follow. I'm not advocating shifting priorities from government to corporate work necessarily, but I am saying this because the personal is political... we must carry our energy and activism beyond letter-writing and attending rallies.

Queers (and everyone) need to stop saying that our dollars don't matter and that boycotting doesn't work, or that it is an inconvenience. Damn right it is an inconvenience. That is the point. If we give into apathy, we might as well just kill ourselves, because every time we don't act, we have told society that we will settle for being shit on, and, I'm sorry, but I won't stand for that.

As a socialist I'm deeply critical and cynical of large corporations. As long as profit is the motive for decision making in this country, justice is being denied to the disadvantaged. But one need not be a socialist to support responsible corporate policies.

When a corporation decides to protect queers or offer us Domestic Partnership benefits, they shouldn't be thanked. It is sad to think that doing the right thing is some sort a favor to us. It should be their duty. We need to hold corporations to higher standards. These policies help them just as much as they do us. Hell, they even profit from them.

Holding some companies accountable for anti-glbt behavior, however, can be very easy. Pick 10 companies. Focus on them. Stop buying their products or using their services. Tell your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers that you are doing this and that they should join you. The decision not to support a certain company could result in thousands of dollars a year in lost revenue for that company and immeasurable bad PR.

After a while you can pat yourself on the back. Congratulations, you've become an activist, ironically by doing a whole lot of NOTHING for those companies. Not only have you been putting a dent in their revenue, but you have been spreading the word, lobbying others to not open their wallets for corporate creeps. You've been signing a verbal petition to not surrender you dollars unless these companies invest in lgbt livelihood. Now that is a campaign.

Unlike governments, we can affect corporate activity every day. Don't just do this for queer rights. Do it for the environment, for peace, labor rights, and racial and gender equality.

Here are some suggested corporations to get you started: Anti-glbt; Domino's, Amway, Wendy's, Art Van, Cracker Barrel. Anti-Environmental; Chevron, GE, Monsanto, Dow. Labor exploitation; Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Nike...Just Do it.

All this and you can probably save enough money for a latte: But pick it up at Caribou Coffee if possible. They like gays there.


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