Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – the oldest surviving gay lobbying group–puts out a “Corporate Equality Index,” (CEI) listing all the corporations that are alleged to be friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans people. In turn, HRC compiles the top-scorers from the CEI to form the list of the “best places to work.”
A strange list of qualifications–including meaningless gestures like having an “employee group or diversity council,” whatever that means–is used to score companies on the CEI. But from what I can tell, earning a perfect score doesn’t substantially require much more than a non-discrimination hiring policy and a vague willingness to tolerate employees who take an interesting in wearing t-shirts with the company logo at Pride parades. Within the scoresheet, there’s no consideration of the larger picture of a corporation’s actions, its misdeeds, or how working for a company on this list oftentimes means working directly for, or closely with, enemies of equality.
While HRC says it costs nothing to be on the list, this whole thing looks like a red carpet rolled-out for donations to the HRC. One of the criteria for inclusion on the list is philanthropic support of at least one LGBT organization or event–should I just make the check out to “H-R-C”?
Your corporation will lose 25 points if you give “to organizations whose primary mission includes advocacy against LGBT equality.” But no points lost for funding legislators who run on a right-wing platform of social conservativism, by far the bigger threat. By enshrining anti-gay bias into law or using the bully pulpit to demean LGBT people, a Congressional legislator can do a hell of a lot more damage than an organization that just happens to be anti-gay.
What’s curious is how little attention or ire this self-righteous circle-jerk engenders among the gay media, who don’t seem to have said much–if anything–about it lately, despite the fact that this is the primary measuring-stick for determining which soul-sucking cubicle farms are the most gay-friendly in the country. And no one seems to be making a fuss about it on Twitter (#CEI2015) besides me, so I can only assume that the gay community is onboard for this kind smoke-and-mirrors, hand-wavey, dog-and-pony-show. Either that, or we’re all just so jaded about the fact that HRC is a tool for corporate interest that no one figured it was even worth breaking out the Picard-facepalm.jpg.
But for funsies, let’s take a look at some of the biggest, and worst, companies on this list to see how deep this rabbit hole goes.
While you’re reading, keep in mind that the only way to get on this list of “best places to work” for LGBT people is to earn a perfect score on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
- AT&T: As one of the biggest corporate donors to anti-gay Republican looney-toons like Ted Cruz, Michele Bachmann, and Pete Sessions (who said the Taliban was a “model” for how the GOP can become an “insurgency”), this company is effectively aiding and abetting politicians who oppress and demean LGBT people. (Source)
- Humana and Cigna: Both insurance companies, both accused of gouging customers on copayments and co-insurance for drugs used to treat HIV. (Source)
- Bank of America: Settled for a pittance with a couple they denied a mortgage to because they were gay; hired a NOM-supported, anti-gay activist as the company’s team-building coordinator; stole $3.3 million from Texas taxpayers and then split the bounty with the state’s Attorney General so he wouldn’t hold them accountable; knowingly moved money for narco-traffickers; and, oh yeah!, contributed to the collapse of the U.S. housing market. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
- Leo Burnett Company: The advertising firm for Philip Morris (the biggest, baddest tobacco company), which recommended it market to gay people as an emerging market. Basically: “Kill the gays, but slowly, and make sure you take their money first!” And remember those homophobic Manwich ads that abused men for thinking like “sissboys”? This company made them. (Sources: 1, 2)
- Boeing: Just two years after using pension survivor benefits of same-sex married couples as a bargaining chip against their union, this company earned a perfect score on the Corporate Equality Index. Not to mention the CEO’s recent public joke about how employees “cower” in his presence. What a mensch – I’m sure he does his part to make this one of the “best places to work” for LGBT people. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)
- Bristol-Myers Squibb: A pharmaceutical company which was sued for overcharging the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It also paid out over $150 million in fines when it was discovered the company fraudulently inflated its sales and earnings in order to create the false appearance that it had met Wall Street analysts’ earnings estimates. (Sources: 1, 2)
- Lockheed Martin: This war profiteer, which is one of the largest recipient of government money, produces cluster bombs, designs nuclear weapons, and has been the central contractor involved in the F-35 debacle that has cost taxpayers at least a bazillion dollars. But all that aside, they’re also the largest donor to Rep. Buck McKeon, the House Armed Services Committee chair who wanted an amendment in the defense spending bill that would bar military chaplains from officiating same-sex weddings. (Source: 1, 2, 3)
- HP: The computer company run by gay-hating Meg Whitman, who–while running for governor–said she would defend Proposition 8, but has since flip-flopped to support marriage equality. Still a Republican, though! (Source)
And those are just the companies with anti-gay headlines. I’m no private investigator–just a guy with a web browser and a spreadsheet. What other misdeeds would we find at these “best places to work” by talking to the employees, or digging deeper? Seems like a question maybe HRC should consider, hm?
And here are a few other companies on this list whose behavior is truly beyond-the-pale in the way they treat our allies, and our planet. And remember, PERFECT SCORE ON THE CEI:
- Chevron: Repeatedly ignored safety auditors at its Richmond, California refinery, resulting in a fire that sent 15,000 to the hospital with respiratory problems; contaminated Ecuador 20 years ago with enough spilled-oil to make even BP blanche, and has been fighting since then to avoid paying for cleanup, despite local cancer rates spiking as local villagers continue to drink from contaminated streams; urged the Nigerian government to fire on its own citizens who were protesting on an oil rig about Chevron’s environmental record. (Sources: 1, 2, 3) I could go on.
- Wells Fargo: Engaged in a massive conspiracy to charge Latinos and African-Americans higher rates on mortgages than their white counterparts, which “left a scar on the finances of black Americans [that] could leave them at a financial disadvantage for decades.” Meanwhile, also defrauded a government-backed mortgage insurance program of hundreds of millions of dollars over more than a decade by improperly underwriting more than 100,000 home loans. (Sources: 1, 2)
- General Electric: A corporate tax-dodger in the most extreme sense. Thanks to a taxpayer-funded cadre of lawyers and lobbyists who urge Congress to open new tax loopholes and maintain the ones we already have, this company received a total tax refund of more than $2.9 billion from the IRS between 2008 and 2013, while making over $33.9 billion in United States profits. That’s a tax rate of negative 9%. (Sources: 1, 2)
- Alcoa: Considered one of the world’s worst polluters, this company has a monstrous, toxic history. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Merck: Despite serious competition on this list, Merck may be the company with the highest death-toll in it’s campaign to heal and/or murder anyone who uses its products. Consider its drug Vioxx, used by 25 million Americans until it was uncovered that Merck not only manipulated drug trials in their favor, but also threatened scientists and investigators to cover up the fact that the company knew before the drug was even on the market that it was basically a poison pill that caused heart attacks, strokes, and serious stomach issues. Once the truth came out, Merck slow-walked a recall, and as a result at least 3,400 people died – but that number could be as high as 500,000. And don’t even get me started on all the new class-action lawsuits against other products Merck has conjured from it’s bubbling cauldron. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
- AIG: Helped bring the world economy to its knees through incompetence and greed. Needed over $182 billion in taxpayer-funded bailouts to avoid collapse, but funneled a metric shitton of that money to executives as multi-million dollar bonuses. Then, in an absolutely bonkers move, former CEO Hank Greenburg–who was already under investigation for completely unrelated fraud when AIG latched itself to the taxpayer’s tit–tried to sue the government over the terms of the very bailout that saved the company in the first place. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
- Comcast: Twice voted “the worst company in America” by Consumerist, this customer service pit of despair is not only the absolute worst at everything it’s built to do, but even more egregiously is financing the resegregation of the American South while waging an astroturfing campaign to kill Net Neutrality. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)
- Monsanto: The al-Qaeda of the corporate world, lovingly nicknamed “the world’s most evil company.” Gleefully poisons the earth with frankenstein GMO seeds, destroys the lives of farmers in third-world countries, and treats some of it’s lowest paid workers, I quote, “like slaves.” And did you know Monsanto was the primary manufacturer of Agent Orange? Do not look that shit up on Wikipedia. This pesticide used in Vietnam visited straight-from-the-pit-of-hell-alooking injuries on thousands of Vietnamese, and later, nightmarish, deformed fetuses and an untold number of stillborn babies. (Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Citigroup: This robber baron of Wall Street defrauded millions of Americans, helped usher-in the Great Recession, and was the largest recipient of government bailout money. The company then lobbied the FDIC for golden parachute exemptions, and was granted them, allowing millionaire CEOs to earn even more just for quitting. Oh, and they’re also helping to finance the resegregate the American South alongside Comcast. (Sources: 1, 2)
- GoldmanSachs: Glad-handed the gay community with a Johnny-come-lately statement in support of gay marriage, but was meanwhile ripping-off their clients, then laughing about it behind their backs, and wooing government regulators for protection against prosecution for its crimes. (Sources: 1, 2, 3)
- Abercrombie & Fitch: Only the “best places to work” if you look like Taylor Swift, but less ethnic, since this clothing company enthusiastically discriminated on the basis of race and gender for in-store jobs until it was sued in a class action lawsuit. Also routinely releases “fashion” emblazoned with racist and sexist logos to troll America’s Asians and women. Refuses to stock women’s pants in sizes above 10, because fatties. (Sources: 1, 2)
The Corporate Equality Index pinkwashes corporate malfeasance, and the list of “best places to work” is one hell of a rotten roster.
You can’t disentangle our fight for equality from the larger fight for social and environmental justice. Some of the people who were injured by Chevron’s negligent refinery fire are gay, bisexual, or trans. And so are lots of the African-Americans and Latinos who Wells Fargo cheated on mortgage rates. See how it’s all connected, HRC?
And anyway, what good is working at an “equality friendly” company if the CEO is writing checks to election campaigns for Republicans who want to roll back a woman’s right to choose, stop black people from voting, and stop even the most milquetoast equality legislation from seeing the light of day? How much equality are you really earning at one of these companies if the only place you can enjoy it is inside the confines of your cubicle?
There must be greater accountability for the overall social justice movement in the corporate world. It cannot be enough for a company to add a few words to it’s HR policy and consider itself a champion of our cause. Our cause is equality. Not marriage equality. Not workplace equality. Just equality.
That’s why HRC must end the Corporate Equality Index (and this embarrassing “best places to work” list) and implement a new standard that takes into account a fuller view of social justice. Corporations whose legacy is oppression, racism, and environmental degradation do not deserve to be rewarded, and should not be encouraged.