“The Illusions of Choice” (full-size version) (Check out “Background – Deep dive into a viral meme and the politics behind the restaurant industry (and where you want your fast food dollars to go“) at the bottom)
Action #1: Join “Sleeping Giants” to stop a white supremacy-denier from spreading his toxic message.
After the El Paso shootings by a domestic terrorist intent on killing Latinos, Fox’s Tucker Carlson publicly called white supremacy, the cause of most mass shootings in 2018, both “a hoax” and “conspiracy theory used to divide the country”. He lost almost almost 60% of his ads and was sent away on Fox’s standard “time-out vacation”. This isn’t the first time – Carlson lost over 70 paid advertisers in December 2018 after his comment that “immigrants make our own country poorer and dirtier“. This time “at least five advertisers — HelloFresh, Nestle, SteinMart, Calm and SoFi — have removed their ads from Tucker Carlson’s show, and many more have quietly distanced themselves. One major Fox News advertiser, Long John Silver’s, was so frustrated that it removed its ads from the network entirely.” However, one big one remains…USAA [United Services Automobile Association] remains.
Ask them to step away. Send an email to their Executive Director of Media & Social – Laura Powers. Sleeping Giants provides a letter template and all the information you need here. While you’re on their page, sign up to follow Sleeping Giants!
Action #2: – Tell companies it’s no longer “business as usual.”
Since before the 2016 election, #GrabYourWallet has been listing companies that had financial relationships with the Trumps. Since then over 70 companies have been dropped from the list due to people like us reaching out to them. However, recent news of the Trump administration’s continued use of family separation despite a U.S. court order to stop—an action resulting in 900 additional children being separated from their parents – has caused #GrabYourWallet to add donations, fundraising events, and endorsements of high profile Trump supporters.”
Buying the products or services of a company on the #GrabYourWallet list, may put your money in the pocket of someone who will use it to try to reelect, support, and/or celebrate Trump. Check out the list here and start reaching out.
There are names, phone numbers, email and twitter addresses.
Use their minimal script or make your own: “Hi. I’m a customer of [CompanyName]. Unfortunately I can no longer do business with your company because it and/or its leaders have aided in the political efforts/endeavors of the Trump administration. If your company were to publicly commit to not doing so in the 2020 election cycle, I would enthusiastically return as a customer. Please communicate my feedback to management.”
Action #3: – Your voice as a consumer has power and yes, there’s an app for that…
#Grabyourwallet can’t be everywhere. When you pay for something, a lipstick, a t-shirt, a hotel room or a meal, your money can end up funding a politician, a party or a billionaire industrialist you really don’t want to. Go mid-old school with a website like greenamerica.org’s “Vote with your dollar toolkit” or explore apps like goodsuniteus.com, and buypartisan, which can help you make choices when you have them. (disclaimer – we have no financial relationship with anyone listed here)
Buycott allows users to join a wide range of specific campaigns. Choose those that are important to you, like whether or not the paper towels you buy profits the Koch brothers or if your purchase goes into Trump’s pockets or supports companies that refuse to cover contraceptives for their employees. It can help you decipher “The Illusions of Choice” ( full-size version of the picture at the top of this post) or find the companies committed to helping bees.
Background – Deep dive into a viral meme and the politics behind the restaurant industry (and where you want your fast food dollars to go…)
Last week a post by a California college student tore thru the internet, calling out a number of restaurants for being Trump supporters. For those who missed it, here is the thread…
The reaction from the restaurant industry was immediate…
“It’s not us, says Corporate Restaurant America, “it was those pesky
Companies protested that their hands were clean because that they can’t contribute to federal elections directly and that the money was really from PACs (political action committees) of franchise owners and “supporters”. However, what they didn’t clarify was that company-sponsored PACs allow company leaders and “stakeholders” to pool money into special accounts, from which their board then distributes as it chooses. Individual employees and CEOs can also make political donations on their own. Combined, the contributions show where businesses and their employees fall on the political spectrum.
“Tomāto, tomahto” say us consumers! If a company’s name is on the napkins, we’re going to assume that our money is being used with their tacit approval to support roll-backs of worker protections and all the other abuses being perpetrated by this administration, however the money was funneled to the GOP. If they don’t like this back-of-the-envelope analysis, they should stop sponsoring franchisee PACs. We went through the internet list ourselves, and this is what we found…
- Bang – Jack Owoc, the CEO of Vital Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures the Bang Energy brand of energy drinks, is a supporter of President Donald Trump; Vital Pharmaceuticals donated $250,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC in March 2019. We’re not giving Jack our money.
- In n Out – In-N-Out’s reputation for fantastic burgers is bolstered by its policy of paying more than minimum wage and offering competitive benefits for fast food workers. However, they do have a long history of donating to political causes. In 2018, In-N-Out Burger made a contribution of $25,000 to the California Republican Party, news of which triggered a boycott (#BoycottInNOut). Executive VP Arnie Wensinger defended the company – “(we) made equal contributions to both Democratic and Republican PACs in the state of California”. Although technically true, the “moderate Democratic” PAC they gave $50k to was called “Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy”, and it helped big business continue fracking in California. It also helped defeat a bill dictating pay and benefit levels for Wal-Mart workers. Sort of “Republican-Light” for Democrats. Don’t give them your money if this matters to you.
- Chick-fil-A – Both 2016 and 2018 Open Secrets records show that 100% of their PAC donations came from individuals, which, as we described before, could mean executives, franchise owners, or janitors. The 2016 donations were $21K Rep. to $3K Dem. Interestingly, that split decreased in 2018, with $9K Rep. to 5K Dem. However, the more important issue is that the chain’s owner, S. Truett Cathy, has given huge amounts of money to anti-LGBTQ organizations, including those advocating conversion therapy. To aid in his efforts to discriminate, the Texas state legislature recently passed a “Save Chick-fil-A” bill, which forbids government entities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses because of those businesses’ “religious beliefs and moral convictions, including beliefs and convictions regarding marriage.” Opponents say it could give private businesses like Chick-fil-A the legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ customers or staff under the guise of free speech. (Note: Discrimination of any type encourages more. The Trump Administration is proposing a new rule to allow certain federal contractors the right to discriminate against people who don’t share their employer’s religious views.) We’re not giving Truett our money. Nobody is that hungry. Option: Popeyes – “whose company chairman donates to Democratic politicians in Florida. He’s also a man of science, as he serves on the National Stem Cell Foundation to promote and fund research!
- Taco Bell – So far this year, TACO PAC has donated $53,625 to Republicans and $3,500 to Democrats. They also are a subsidiary of YUM! brands along with KFC, which is a huge funder of the anti-labor trade association National Restaurant Association. (See the McDonald’s section below) We’re finding our taco bliss elsewhere.
Stepping outside the list here for McDonalds…
McDonald’s has more employees than the US Armed Services. What they do matters. Their 2018 PAC contributions were $515k, (42% to Democrats, 57% to Republicans) with the largest amounts, $10K, going to Republican legislators. Both parties’ Congressional and Senatorial Campaign Committees each received exactly $30k apiece, which fits the “board directed scenario” we described above.
But these carefully distributed donations are a small bag of french fries compared to a much larger issue. McDonald’s has numerous ties to the ferociously right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch-funded group which supports undermining environmental regulations and climate science; school privatization; undercutting health care reform; defunding unions and limiting their political influence; restraining legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes; strict election laws that disenfranchise voters; increased incarceration to benefit the private prison industry, just to start. Alumni include Mike Pence, Senators Marsha Blackburn and Lindsey Graham and Reps. Tom McClintock and Steve King. (List of members here.)
2012: McDonald’s was a corporate member until 2012, when negative publicity about ALEC’s activities prompted them, like other restaurant chains, to drop their membership and join the National Restaurant Association instead. However, “the other NRA” is ALEC-adjacent, being itself a member of ALEC and one of the largest anti-worker lobbies in Washington DC. McDonald’s is one of their largest funders, along with Disney, Yum! Brand and Darden Restaurants. The NRA helped push paid sick leave preemption bills (What is a preemption bill?) through ALEC’s Labor and Business Regulation Subcommittee and in July 2013, it boasted that it had successfully lobbied against raises in the minimum wage in 27 of 29 states and blocked paid sick leave legislation in 12 states. It also takes credit for halting any increase in the federal minimum wage for tipped employees, which has remained at $2.13 per hour since 1991. (Current “tipped wages” here, Lowest here: NJ ($2.13), AR ($2.63), DE ($2.23), MA ($3.75), MI ($3.59), MO ($3.93), RI ($3.89) MD ($4.00), OH ($4.30), DC ($4.45)) Download the FACT SHEET: The Impact of Raising the Subminimum Wage on Restaurant Sales and Employment here.
The NRA’s collusion with Trump’s agenda is clearly described in this report by Restaurants Opportunities Centers United, including the nomination for Labor Secretary (fortunately failed) of NRA member, avowed anti-wage worker and Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder. The NRA too wants to repeal health care reform, and has remained silent on Trump’s various violations of emoluments and conflicts of interests that might implicate its own members. It has also embraced the Trump Administration’s exclusionary policies attacking women, immigrants, and communities of color, even though the restaurant industry’s workforce is majority women, disproportionately workers of color, and the largest employer of foreign-born workers, including undocumented workers.
2015: Nearly two-hundred restaurant workers and living wage activists convened in D.C. on the National Restaurant Association’s annual lobbying day to call on elected officials and to ask them to stop taking the lobby’s corporate cash. By setting up a pop-up restaurant in front of their public affairs conference, four intersections were blocked, successfully delaying the NRA’s busses of lobbyists from arriving to the Capitol to meet with policymakers.
Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United stated “It’s unacceptable that McDonald’s, a company known for poverty wages, unsafe working conditions, rampant discrimination and wage theft, is influencing policy at any level. Nearly 1 in 2 restaurant workers — from fast-food to full-service — are forced to rely on public assistance to support themselves and their families, costing taxpayers close to $17 billion every year in what amounts to corporate subsidies for widespread inadequate wages. Yet the industry continues to post record breaking profits while CEOs get paid more in a single day than those who are its backbone — fast-food workers, servers, bussers, bartenders, hosts, dishwashers , cooks — will make in an entire year. Restaurant workers are rightly taking action because their industry is broken; the National Restaurant Association, with McDonald’s as a leading member, has been leading that destruction through their undue corporate influence over our entire political system.”
2017: Thousands of workers flooded Chicago for the March on McDonalds. Protesters demanded a $15 mimimum wage and for McDonalds to stop funding the NRA. The next day, McDonald’s executives faced a fractious shareholder meeting where they were asked to answer to labor advocates and investors regarding what was described as abusive marketing and labor practices.
2019: In March this year, McDonald’s Vice President Genna Gent said that the company would “not use our resources, including lobbyists or staff, to oppose minimum wage increases” at any level, and that it would not “participate in association (NRA) advocacy efforts designed expressly to defeat wage increases.” However, since 90% of their restaurants are owned by franchisees, it will not be corporate McDonald’s absorbing the cost increases. While some worker groups are jubilent over the announcement, others suspect that this might be a publicity stunt to repair their corporate image while continuing to fund NRA’s other anti-labor lobbying efforts. The big “M” stands for “big Money”. We’re going to find our hamburgers elsewhere.
OK back to the list…
- Wendy’s – Do you look for the “Fair Trade Labels” on your food products? Most seem to address conditions for workers in foreign countries, but one, the award-winning Fair Food Program, was created by tomato farm workers in Immokalee, Florida. Big companies, including Taco Bell, Burger King, Chipotle Mexican Grill, McDonald’s, Subway, Trader Joe’s, Walmart, Whole Foods Market, and Yum Brands have pledged to pay a penny more per pound of tomatoes and buy only from growers who comply with the program. In 2013, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships reported that the FFP was one of the “most successful and innovative programs” to prevent modern slavery”. One of the biggest holdouts is Wendy’s, who now says they want to buy their tomatoes from greenhouses in the US and Canada, which are not inherently better in terms of worker conditions. The workers are asking us to boycott Wendy’s until they commit to join the Fair Food Program and respect the rights and dignity of farmworkers in its supply chain. As for Wendy’s political inclinations, Cheatsheet.com writes “Forbes notes Wendy’s fairly donates to both parties — but they’re also more partial to the red. Throughout the 2016 election cycle, Eater reports Wendy’s donated nearly $700,000 to Republicans. And in 2012, the billionaire chairman contributed to Mitt Romney and Herman Cain’s campaigns. In 2018, OpenSecrets.org reports Wendy’s (was) strongly in favor of the right, with 90% of their contributions going to the Republican party.” We’re going to find our hamburgers elsewhere.
- KFC (franchisee PAC) – Listing from OpenSecrets.org here. Total Contributions from this PAC to federal candidates $193,200 (9% to Democrats, 91% to Republicans) From Cheatsheet.com: “For those who want to support Republican ideals along with their bucket of fried chicken, KFC is the place to go. Forbes notes Yum! Brands, the parent company of KFC, Taco Bell, and A&W, gave 87% of its donations to Republicans in the 2012 election cycle. And in 2016, Yum! also gave over $2,000 to the “Every Republican is Crucial” ERIC PAC that promises to “return us to our conservative roots.” YUM! Brands is also a huge funder of the anti-labor National Restaurant Association. (See the McDonald’s section above) Their secret recipe remain safe – no buckets for us!
- Pizza Hut/Papa Johns – Despite a malevolent hoax focused against Democrats and a pizza parlor in D.C., pizza appears to be a Republican food. They have their own lobbying group called the American Pizza Community which fights against menu labeling and school nutrition requirements and they are huge supporters of the GOP. In 2018, the Pizza Hut Franchisees Assn PAC spent over $91k on the GOP and $0 on Dems. groups. Papa John’s PAC was also overwhelming Republican and gave about 88% of its lobbying dollars to the GOP, and just 11% to Democrats. On the customer side, only CA Pizza Kitchen polled higher with Democrats. CPK tends to skew Republican with very small donations. Their biggest year was 2004 with all $8000 riding on the GOP. 2016 had their entire $223 on the Dems. Find your friendly local place for pizza!
- Olive Garden – Olive Garden is a subsidiary of Darden Restaurants, which is another huge funder of the anti-labor trade association National Restaurant Association. (See the McDonald’s section above) Darden Restaurants also owns LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Yard House, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, and Eddie V’s. No endless plates of pasta for us!
- Waffle House – In 2018, the Waffle House Inc. PAC gave $109,615 to the GOP and $436 to the Dems. From Cheatsheet.com: “If you’re a Republican, you’re in good company with Waffle House. Salon reported in 2012 that the company’s political action committee has exclusively given money to Republicans in the past, and the CEO is a supporter of right-leaning causes. In 2012, Waffle House gave $100,000 to the Karl Rove political action committee, too. And in 2006, the CEO also had ties to Mitt Romney.” Oh, and there’s this issue…which keeps happening… No chicken and waffles for us!
- IHOP – From Cheatsheet.com: “We know IHOP for their many pancake options more so than for their social media, but after the company shared an anti-Clinton tweet, it seemed clear which party the company favored. IHOP reposted a tweet from one user that said “Hillary Clinton had a major garbage campaign.” IHOP deleted the tweet and maintained that they were hacked after the fact. The Pancake PAC – Total Contributions from this PAC to federal candidates = $31,000 (0% to Democrats, 100% to Republicans). No pancakes for us!
- Carls’ Jrs. – Carls’ Jr. has a long history of supporting right-wing causes. (Salon) “Carl’s Jr. founder Carl Karcher, who died in 2008, had been a supporter of anti-abortion causes for decades including the anti-choice group Operation Rescue. In 2016, Trump nominated the anti-labor CEO of Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s Andy Puzder, for labor secretary, saying that “He will save small businesses from the crushing burdens of unnecessary regulations that are stunting job growth and suppressing wages.” Puzder “(was) a vocal defender of Trump’s economic policies, including lowering the corporate-tax rate, and has opposed Obamacare and certain business regulations, such as a higher minimum wage.” Due to a full plate of issues, including an accusation of abuse by his ex-wife, mentorship by a mob lawyer, failing to pay taxes on the an undocumented immigrant as well as his companies’ risque advertisements and disputed labor practices, “only-the-best-people” Puzder withdrew his nomination after the Senate GOP informed the White House that he lacked the votes to be confirmed. Puzder was replaced as CEO in 2017 by Jason Marker, who was president of YUM! Brand, a big supporter of the National Restaurant Association. Business as usual at Carls’. Never supported their squicky commercials – no drippy burgers for us..
Some more information on PAC contributions from Eater.com (2016)
Current: Top Food & Beverage Contributors to Federal Candidates, Parties, and Outside Groups for 2020. Kind of surprised at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf…