We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We hit a nerve.
In response to Georgia’s new Jim Crow-esque voter suppression laws, activists called for a boycott of Georgia companies. And wouldn’t you know … Suddenly a whole lot of companies started feeling a whole lot more … patriotic.
Last month, Coca-Cola said it supported “a balanced approach to the elections bills that have been introduced in the Georgia Legislature this session.” That response was, as you can imagine, not well received by voting and civil rights activists.
So, facing boycotts and criticism from folks across the country, last week Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey called the Georgia voter suppression bill “unacceptable” and “a step backward.” He said he wanted to ‘clarify’ their position. You know, for the record.
It’s a good reminder to all of us of the power consumers wield.
We spend a good bit of time talking about the inequality of representation in government. Democrats beat Republicans in the popular vote by 3% in November … but lost seats in the House of Representatives. The Senate is split 50/50, but Democratic Senators represent 40,000,000 more people.
We know by polling and data and research that a majority of Americans agree with Democratic policies and legislative priorities. That we can’t get them passed is a sick trick of Senate rules.
But … again … we know by polling and data and research that a majority of Americans agree with Democratic policies and legislative priorities.
And who wants to be on the same side as a majority of Americans?
They’re motivated by profits and losses. Simple as that.
We’ve asked corporations to take sides on civil rights issues plenty of times over the years.
But, interestingly, we hadn’t yet asked corporate America to take a stand on voting rights.
Now we have, and we’re seeing the impact in real time.
It got me thinking of Martin Luther King Jr.’s comments at the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. If you’ve read The Behind the Scenes Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, you know how that boycott developed – as a one-day event that women theorized, planned and executed. But after that first day, the Bus Boycott continued for a full twelve months under the leadership of Martin Luther King. It was grueling for everyone, but it showed the stamina and passion of the movement. At its victorious culmination, King noted: (Read his full statement HERE.)
For more than twelve months now, we, the Negro citizens of Montgomery have been engaged in a non-violent protest against injustices and indignities experienced on city buses. We came to see that, in the long run, it is more honorable to walk in dignity than ride in humiliation. So in a quiet dignified manner, we decided to substitute tired feet for tired souls, and walk the streets of Montgomery until the sagging walls of injustice had been crushed by the battering rams of surging justice.
Often our movement has been referred to as a boycott movement. The word boycott, however, does not adequately describe the true spirit of our movement. The word boycott is suggestive of merely an economic squeeze devoid of any positive value. We have never allowed ourselves to get bogged in the negative; we have always sought to accentuate the positive. Our aim has never been to put the bus company out of business, but rather to put justice in business.
Sure, corporations are motivated by profits and losses. But when we, the consumers, show them that embracing justice boosts their bottom line, they respond. Swiftly.
We have the power over that lever of capitalism.
Let’s use that power … and do a whole lot of good.
Let’s get to work.
Actions For the Week of April 5, 2021
Tuesday: Carrots first! Say thanks to corporations doing the right thing.
Trump World has spent days whining and crying about the companies that have come forward to affirm their dedication to democracy and voting access. That’s an unbelievable sentence to write in the first place. These corporate statements were exactly as American-as-apple-pie as you can imagine, and still Republicans are angry because the corporations are not supporting an unfettered right to restrict access to the polls.
Notably outspoken corporations that are now facing boycotts/anger from Trumpian Republicans include Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, JPMorgan Chase, ViacomCBS, Cisco, UPS, and Merck.
So let’s let them know that we are holding them all in high regard because of their actions. Especially if you are a customer. Really simple action, guys! Just pick one, give them a call and use this script:
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I just wanted to call to thank [company] for standing up for voting rights and access. With so much division in our country right now, it’s important to me to support companies that care about our democracy. I was glad to see [company name] in that category, and I’ll continue to support you. Thanks!
Cisco (408-526-4000; Twitter @Cisco)
Coca-Cola (404-676-2121; Twitter @CocaCola)
Delta (404-715-2600; Twitter @Delta)
JPMorgan (212-270-6000; Twitter @JPMorgan)
Merck (908-740-4000; Twitter @Merck)
UPS (404-828-6000; Twitter @UPS)*** (note contact info for below!)
ViacomCBS, (212-258-6000; Twitter @VIACOMCBS)
Wednesday: Now for sticks…
Georgia’s voter suppression law has been passed already, but we still have time to slow or stop the laws that are winding their way through the Texas legislature.
The Texas bills limit early voting hours, prohibit drive-thru voting and give partisan poll workers the ability to record voters at the polls. (Ugh.)
But here’s the good news – according to the Washington Post, [Civic Alliance co-founder Mike] Ward said he believes states where legislation has not yet passed will get increasing attention from corporations, and that companies are considering options beyond statements — things such as withholding contributions, lobbying on behalf of federal legislation, or speaking directly with lawmakers.
That means we have a wonderful opportunity to show them that consumers are paying attention and that they should take bold action (like withholding contributions).
HERE is the list of corporations that have financially supported the Texas bill’s sponsors.
On that list is … United Parcel Services. To the tune of $124,000 from 2018 to now.
That’s right – the very UPS that is now getting heat from Republicans for speaking out after the Georgia voter suppression bill was passed has financially supported the sponsors of the Texas voters suppression laws.
UPS’s statement regarding the Georgia voter suppression law was late (March 30). It read: “UPS supports the facilitation and the ability of all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote. Like other businesses in the community, we actively engaged with political leaders in both parties and other stakeholders to advocate for more equitable access to the polls and for integrity in the election process across the state. We echo the statement by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and stand ready to continue to help in ensuring every Georgia voter has the ability to vote.”
So now that they support Georgia voters… let’s reach out to ask UPS what they are doing right now to stop the Texas voter suppression bills from becoming law.
Tweet: @UPS: Thank you for standing up for Georgia voters. What are you doing for Texas voters? Stand up for them NOW before the TX voter suppression bills become law.
Or call them at: 404-828-6000
Thursday: Climate Mobilization 2030 Toolkit
As you know, sometimes I just like to share what I think are especially good bits of organizing information – or resources that I find personally helpful. That’s the case with this incredibly dense, but action-packed primer – the Climate Mobilization 2030 Toolkit. I’ve found so many potential action items, but also bits that I plan to send to some of my local legislative leaders. I think you’ll find it very helpful! bit.ly/2030toolkit
Friday: Sign Up for Organizing Lessons From Georgia: Building Electoral Power
Action Together Network (www.actiontogethernetwork.org) is a mutually supportive network of more than 850 progressive organizing leaders across scope, geography, and affiliation rooted in transformational relationship, community, and capacity building. They will be having what sounds like an excellent panel discussion on Tuesday next week: Organizing Lessons from Georgia: Building Electoral Power (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET; register now: bit.ly/ATNapril)
How can progressive grassroots organizers turn red states to blue, or at least to purple? Organizers across the country in red states and swing states, especially those in which the demographics are changing, are wondering which path they should take in their own states now and over the next 10 years, so we will focus on both short-term solutions and gaining momentum for the long term.
Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for President Biden, and the Senate seat victories for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, were the result of many years of sustained investment and organizing. Far outside D.C., grassroots groups have been reshaping the infrastructure of progressive organizing for years, in different ways that build bridges across political geography. A panel of expert Georgia organizers will discuss solutions and best practices and take your questions. We will tape the session and provide a few suggested reading materials.
- Kimberlyn Carter, Executive Director, Represent Georgia
- Marvin Lim, Georgia House District Representative (GA-HD 99) and Founding Board Member, 159 Georgia Together
- Wanda Mosley, National Field Director, Black Voters Matter Fund
- Martha Shockey, Co-convener of Indivisible Georgia Coalition
Moderated by: Anne Isenhower, Advisory Team, Action Together Network
- Register here: http://bit.ly/ATNapril
DID YOU KNOW YOU’RE A ROCK STAR? I DID. SUPER PROUD OF YOU!
P.S.: Why don’t you make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two? I bet they need it.
P.P.S.: If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. We’re in this together. Don’t you forget it.