WASHINGTON, D.C. — OUTreach, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender constituency group of the 1.3 million member United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), is calling on Arkansas-based Walmart to speak out against Senate Bill 202 (SB 202)—anti-LGBT legislation which is set to become law in the coming days unless it is vetoed by Governor Asa Hutchinson.
“We call on Walmart to swiftly and forcefully urge Governor Hutchinson to veto SB 202,” said Michele Kessler, International Chair of UFCW OUTreach. “As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart has a responsibility to speak out against this hateful and bigoted legislation. In addition, Walmart has a moral obligation to use its influence in Arkansas to prevent discrimination from being enshrined into law. If Walmart will not stand up for the rights of LGBT people in the state it calls home, how can it ever be considered a supporter of equality? Our community is watching and waiting.”
To this point, Walmart and other businesses in the state have remained silent.
Walmart received a score of 90 on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) most recent Corporate Equality Index (CEI). Many in the LGBT community look to the CEI as a barometer of the commitment specific companies have to equality in not just polices, but practices. UFCW OUTreach has been raising questions about the validity of Walmart’s score.
- The recent vote to repeal a citywide non-discrimination ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas, was supported by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, which includes a Walmart representative.
- Since 2006, Walmart and the Waltons have given $30,000 to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson who is refusing to veto SB 202.
- Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $450,000 to Republican candidates for State Senate and State Assembly in Arkansas since 2000. More than $100,000 of this was in 2014 alone.
- Since 2000, Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $355,000 to the Arkansas Republican Party and the Arkansas Republican House Leadership Committee. More than $136,000 of this total came from Jim Walton, who previously donated heavily to an Arkansas initiative to outlaw adoption by same-sex couples.
- The sponsor of SB 202, Bart Hester, received a contribution from the Arvest Bank PAC in 2012. Arvest Bank is owned by the Walton family and Walmart Board Member Jim Walton is the CEO.
- The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has been criticized for their silence on this issue. A Walmart representative, Gerard Dehrmann, is a Vice-Chairman of the organization and Walmart is one of only 3 “Apex members” of the State Chamber (the highest level of membership).
UFCW OUTreach agrees with LGBT workplace advocacy group Freedom to Work that Walmart must be held to account. “Walmart has recently been given high praise and high scores from the LGBT advocates who publicly rate corporate responsibility,” said Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work. “As the largest private employer in Arkansas, Walmart should publicly call for a veto of this bigoted legislation and lobby the Governor to stand on the right side of history. If Walmart remains silent, I hope the corporate giant will be downgraded in the eyes of LGBT consumers and LGBT organizations alike.”
Will Walmart speak out for equality or continue to side with those who want to deny LGBT citizens their rights?
UFCW OUTreach is a constituency group dedicated to building mutual support between our union’s International, regions, and locals and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and their allies in order to come together to organize for social and economic justice for all, regardless of age, race, gender, creed, color, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Together, we will ensure full equality for LGBT workers on their jobs and in their unions.