Woke Capitalism’s Tired Treads
That image, taken of a screen at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. diversity training session, has been going around social media. It’s for real. Channel 19 in Cleveland reports:
According to the employee who took the photo of the slide, it was presented at the Topeka plant by an area manager and said the slide came from its corporate office in Akron, Ohio.
“If someone wants to wear a BLM shirt in here, then cool. I’m not going to get offended about it. But at the same time, if someone’s not going to be able to wear something that is politically based, even in the farthest stretch of the imagination, that’s discriminatory,” said an employee, under the agreement of anonymity due to fears they could lose their job. “If we’re talking about equality, then it needs to be equality. If not, it’s discrimination.”
Goodyear released the following statement:
“Goodyear is committed to fostering an inclusive and respectful workplace where all of our associates can do their best in a spirit of teamwork. As part of this commitment, we do allow our associates to express their support on racial injustice and other equity issues but ask that they refrain from workplace expressions, verbal or otherwise, in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party as well as other similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of equity issues.”
What a load of garbage. It’s fine to support things woke people support, but nothing else. I certainly understand keeping MAGA stuff out of the workplace, because that is directly political. But you can’t say Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter? The double standard is galling.
So many conservatives still operate under a badly outdated framework that holds Big Business to be fundamentally conservative. The idea, a Randian one, is that Business is the antagonist to Government. Conservatives have long sided naturally with Business.
Well, guess what? Big Business is now on the other side. It is arguably more a threat to conservative values than the state. From Live Not By Lies:
The stereotype that college students leave their liberalism behind on campus when they graduate into the“real world” is badly outdated. In fact, today’s graduates are often taught to bring their social justice ideals withthem and advocate for what is called “corporate social responsibility.” True, nobody has a good word to say for corporate social irresponsibility; like “social justice,” the phrase is a euphemism for a progressive cultural politics.
As author Heather Mac Donald has written, “[G]raduates of the academic victimology complex are remaking the world in their image.” In her 2018 book, The Diversity Delusion, Mac Donald explored how corporate human resources departments function as a social justice commissariat. Nearly 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies have diversity offices she reports, and the corporate mania for “equity, diversity, and inclusion” informs corporate culture at many levels, including hiring, promotion, bonuses, and governing the norms of interaction in the workplace.
Some multinational corporations impose progressive cultural politics on workplaces in more socially conservative countries. Several Polish employees of the national branches of world-renowned corporations told me that they have felt compelled to participate in LGBT activism inside their companies. As Christians, they believed endorsing Pride violated their consciences, but given economic conditions in Poland, they feared refusing to conform would cost them their jobs.
I would be fine with a company policy forbidding people from bringing their politics, or cultural politics, into the workplace, period. But if you’re going to allow it for LGBT advocates and Black Lives Matter activists and allies, you have to be fair. Actually, Big Business doesn’t have to be fair, because nobody is making them.
Does the Human Resources commissariat at Goodyear not understand how resentful policies like this make employees? Who wants to work at a company that polices its employees so unfairly?
UPDATE: A reader writes:
Re: your Goodyear column, as someone who has practiced employment law for years, what jumps out at me is that race (BLM) and gender (LGBT) are each a “protected status” under civil rights law, such that people can bring EEO suits against Goodyear grounded in those statuses, but police officer (Blue Lives Matter), human (All Lives Matter), and supporter of a given politician (MAGA) are not protected statuses.
In much the same way that Chomsky wrote in “Manufacturing Consent” that media bias is rarely a conspiracy but rather the product of structural factors (eg, the irreligion of the intelligentsia affecting religion coverage, to use an example relevant to our interests rather than Chomsky’s), I suspect that rather than consciously enforcing an ideology (although of course there’s plenty of that), the HR folks may just be making exceptions (BLM, LGBT) to head off EEO suits while otherwise trying to get people to leave their controversial views at home.
As Christopher Caldwell has written (see, eg, TAC’s own Helen Andrews on his book), the structural factor here is the way that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has become central to America’s small-c constitution. Notably, where conservatives can mount an argument in terms of protected status (eg, David French and other religious liberty litigators), we are aligned with the civil rights part of the small c-constitution (as well as the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA]) and win victories. When we are advocating for those who lack a protected status (eg, being unborn isn’t a protected status), our victories are much more limited. Since civil rights are as central to our present small-c constitution as states’ rights and federalism issues were to the antebellum constitution, many of our “culture war” / “Cold Civil War” conflicts end up being fought out in that arena (eg, where religious and LGBT status collide) just as the earlier conflict over slavery ended up filtered through fights ostensibly over (con)federalism. Fetal personhood bills and legal theories are a (likely doomed) attempt to seize the civil rights high ground of our small-c constitution for the conservative side.
On the progressive side, I expect that whenever Democrats control all of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives, they will move to abolish or amend RFRA and otherwise attempt to codify an understanding that when racial or LGBT protected status comes into conflict with religious protected status or religious liberty, the claims of those aggrieved based on racial / gender status should prevail. (As you’ve covered over the years, figures like Chai Feldblum have had this view of what to do about conflicting protected statuses for quite a while.)
Anyhow, while there are plenty of ideological zealots in HR departments, we shouldn’t be too quick to assume any conscious motivation than “EEO CYA” on Goodyear’s part without further evidence. Sometimes the grocer with a communist sign in the window might’ve been a communist zealot, but more often he was indifferent to politics and just didn’t want any trouble. In the improbable event that our culture and our small-c constitution became post-woke, corporate behavior would likely eventually respond to those new incentives—especially as today’s woke corporate managers aged out of leadership and were replaced by those raised in a post-woke world. Of course, since conservatives have been comprehensively routed in the culture war, we can instead expect more of the same woke world we have now.
UPDATE.2: Goodyear says the whole thing is fake. Who is telling the truth here? They did not deny it when first asked:
UPDATE.3: New from Goodyear:
A message from Rich Kramer: By now, you are aware of a visual from our Topeka factory that has been circulating in the media. I want to personally clear the record on what you are seeing and hearing. pic.twitter.com/UqqFeFQn6t
— Goodyear (@goodyear) August 20, 2020