Calling on Businesses to Stand up for Democracy
On the surface the Supreme Court’s recent decisions on guns, abortion rights, climate, religion, and Indigenous rights might not appear to have much in common. But they actually share an important trait: they will all cause the most harm to people who are already most disadvantaged or marginalized in our country: Black and Brown people, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous people, people living in poverty, immigrants, non-Christians, and people with disabilities.
As Alexis McGill Johnson, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement about the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade:
The Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives. Due to centuries of racism and systemic discrimination, we already know who will feel the consequences of this horrific decision most acutely: Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, people with disabilities, those living in rural areas, young people, immigrants, and those having difficulties making ends meet. Make no mistake – if they can take away the right to abortion, a right we’ve held for nearly 50 years, they won’t stop here: All of our freedoms are on the line.
Overturning Roe v. Wade was an unprecedented reversal of the rights of people who can get pregnant.
It will also condemn many people to a life of poverty.
Creating greater poverty and misery, exacerbating socio-economic inequities, while rolling back gains made by disenfranchised peoples and harming the country overall, is a hallmark of the majority opinions of the Court this term.
- Black Americans are twice as likely to die of gun violence as white Americans, and gun violence traumatizes the entire community where it takes place. And gun violence is estimated to cost the US economy at least $229 billion per year.
- Climate change is already hitting and will continue to hit communities of color the hardest, creating enormous economic hardship. Poor people worldwide will bear the brunt of a fossil fuel economy that enriches the few. And the cost of failing to act on climate change could cost the US government $2 trillion per year.
- Immigrants contribute extensively to the US economy and are major drivers of the economic recovery of the past two years. But many of these same immigrants are constantly in a precarious legal and/or economic position themselves.
- The US government’s racist policies towards American Indian tribes, including denial of sovereignty to these tribes over their own lands, has led to widespread poverty in American Indian communities nationwide. Sovereignty gains of the past 30 years have helped to address widespread poverty, which is one reason why the Supreme Court’s decision to limit sovereignty is so concerning.
- Access to reproductive care is essential to women and other people who can get pregnant taking part in the labor market. Women living in states with greater access to reproductive care have higher earnings and face less occupational segregation. And restricting access to abortion could cost the US economy $105 billion per year.
- When the government privileges one religion over others, or no religion, it provides a green light to antisemitism, anti-Muslimism, and threats to anyone practicing a non-dominant religion or no religion at all. In US history, the privileging of Christianity led to the exclusion of practitioners of other faiths or no faith from educational, civic, and employment opportunities, as well as exclusion from serving in office.
An Unprecedented Assault on Democracy
In the span of two weeks, the US Supreme Court not only struck down the 50-year-old Constitutional right to abortion, it also swept away a 100-year-old state law regulating concealed carry of firearms, limited the EPA’s authority to regulate climate emissions that the Court previously upheld, diminished American Indian tribes’ rights to enforce the law on their own territories, and weakened the separation of Church and State.
The one bright spot is that the Supreme Court upheld the Biden Administration’s authority to end the Trump Administration’s cruel “Remain in Mexico” policy for some asylum seekers. But the Court’s other decisions will negatively impact immigrant populations.
The impacts that these Supreme Court decisions will have on people’s lives and the country overall demonstrates why they are so unpopular – they are out of step with what the majority of Americans want and are fundamentally undemocratic.
For example, polls show most Americans support abortion rights, regulation of guns, and want the government to act on climate change. And the decision to undo abortion rights opens the door to undermining contraception and marriage equality, which most people support as well.
The Supreme Court’s next term already includes cases that could lead to the erosion of LGBTQ+ rights, election rights, climate regulation, and affirmative action.
That’s why it’s so important for all Americans to use their political voice at all levels of government to undo the damage the Court is doing.
The Role for Corporations in Protecting Democracy
In a capitalist society, there is a crucial role for corporate America to play in opposing the unprecedented rollback of rights and economic harm this Supreme Court is creating. The voice of major US corporations in particular carries significant weight with legislators and the public.
Corporate leaders overwhelmingly recognize that a well-functioning democracy is necessary for a strong economy and the vast majority think businesses should act to protect democracy. However, most corporations are failing to actively voice support or direct their political expenditures for democracy, or to stop supporting anti-democracy, political candidates for local, state and federal office.
While a number of companies spoke up to condemn the events of January 6, and several major corporations opposed legislation to curtail voting rights, most companies have been silent in the face of revelations coming out of the January 6 committee hearings.
And it remains to be seen if companies will speak out and take action to support the expansion of rights in light of the recent Supreme Court rulings and growing anti-democratic practices of a number of elected officials and their supporters.
But, companies can’t be neutral when it comes to right-wing efforts to undermine democracy.
There are many actions companies can take, starting with those below:
Support Human Rights
- Support reproductive care for their employees, including paying for employees to access abortion in other states if it is banned in their own. A number of leading companies are taking action to protect their workers – more need to follow their lead. And companies need to protect all their workers including hourly employees and contracted employees.
- Supporting state and federal legislation to legalize abortion and reproductive care for all people.
- Large tech companies need to ensure their technology is not used to surveil people who are or could be pregnant or immigrants.
- Actively support the expansion of rights for BIPOC and LGTBQ+ people and women to ensure equality for all people.
- Support immigrant rights including a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers, and humane treatment of all immigrants and asylum seekers entering the US.
- Support Indigenous rights including Indigenous sovereignty over historic territory worldwide and the return of stolen lands, and the right of Indigenous peoples to reject extractive industries decimating their lands and sacred places by requiring free, prior, informed consent for any actions affecting their land and rights.
- Support religious freedom and the rights of people to exercise the religion of their choice or no religion.
- Support effective gun control legislation at the state and federal level.
- End financial contributions (direct and through trade associations) to politicians and political action committees that seek to roll back rights or undermine democracy, and call-out their antidemocratic actions.
- Actively support the expansion of voting rights and oppose any efforts to curtail those rights. Hundreds of corporations voiced concern over the rollback of voting rights in the past year and more need to do so.
Tackle the Climate Crisis
- Actively support legislation to reduce climate emissions and support a transition to clean energy and transportation, regenerative agriculture, the phase out of climate super-pollutants, and other climate solutions. A number of large tech companies are leading voices supporting climate solutions, and more companies need to join them.
- Account for all of their climate emissions and create credible plans for achieving net zero emissions by 2035 and implement them.
- Corporations should use the power of their banking deposits and the other business they do with banks to persuade banks financing fossil fuels to decarbonize their lending.
Support Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
- Incorporate Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) practices into their corporate culture, including hiring and promotions.
- Use their corporate purchasing and contracts to support BIPOC and Indigenous communities, and diversity in hiring in contractors, including veterans, disabled people, and LGBTQ+ people.
We All Need to Raise Our Voices
We are all customers or employees of, or investors in, corporations, and companies increasingly listen to their stakeholders.
Let’s use our consumer voices and dollars to call on companies to protect our rights.
Vote our shares in support of resolutions calling on companies to protect human rights and protect the planet. And join other employees where we work to call on companies to do better on the climate, democracy, and equality.
And let’s call on our elected officials to rise up and meet the seriousness of the moment.
With democracy itself at stake, we need bold leadership at the state and federal level to secure our rights and liberties.
Call your elected officials, sign petitions, join rallies and join lobby days when you can. Make get out the vote efforts a priority, and in November, vote and help others to vote.