Harrop: Governors, ‘woke’ or not, leave boycotts to consumers

State governments shouldn’t be dictating business decisions. Consumers can use their influence.

By Froma Harrop / Creators.com

California’s governor has no business “canceling” Walgreens. But I could. Florida’s governor has no business punishing Disney for disagreeing with him over his state’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. But people who agree with Ron DeSantis here can boycott Disney World.

There is a difference between government interference with a private company’s legal activities and the right of consumers to not patronize said business.

However you or I define “woke,” we should not want politicians to interfere with business decisions because they don’t like the executive suite’s views on social policy. As consumers, we can withhold our patronage of its products and services or increase it. As investors, we can put our money into companies whose values we share or take it out if we don’t.

But pursuing a kind of authoritarian chic, right-wing politicos have stuck their unwanted noses into companies engaged in “socially conscious” investing. As cover for what is essentially socialist meddling, they argue that “woke” policies are bad for the bottom line.

They are saying with a straight face that the executives at so-accused Wall Street firms — BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street — aren’t into the money. Well, the rubes might buy it.

The bottom line should be the concern of investors and managers whose payday is tied to the price of the stock. Those on the right who think that executives are being pressured by underlings to adopt “woke” policies are naive in the extreme.

In a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece, histrionically titled “Employees Terrorize Their Bosses Into Going Woke,” Dave Seminara wrote, “Corporate leaders often fear their younger, more sensitive and progressive subordinates, as well as the advocacy groups that rate companies on woke metrics.”

A “subordinate,” as the definition goes, is someone under their authority. That someone can be fired, demoted or otherwise pressured to leave if deemed an impediment to the company’s interests. It happens that in many industries, the best educated and most creative workers want to affiliate with companies that share their liberal values.

Corporate leaders have a strong business interest in attracting and keeping such people. They also have an interest in maintaining a reputation for supporting values that their customers share.

Late in his essay, Seminara seems to get the idea. “I used to be addicted to Chipotle,” he wrote, “but when their marketing became too woke for my taste, I gravitated to a local burrito chain called Casita Taqueria.”

That was your right, Dave, as was mine when I decided to personally join a boycott against Chick-fil-A after the fast food chain gave money to groups opposed to same-sex marriage. There’s a Chick-fil-A right near me employing nice people. I would not want my local or state government to make life hard for the place over its conservative values.

As for California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s move freezing renewal of a big state contract with Walgreens, that, too, is inappropriate meddling. Walgreens did not break a California law. The issue was its decision to not dispense abortion pills in certain states where abortion remains illegal.

The drug chain was responding to legal threats by 20 Republican state attorneys general if they dispense mifepristone where it is allowed. Other pharmacy giants have not said whether they would do likewise.

Walgreens has been put in a tough position, but if it refuses to offer mifepristone in places where abortion is legal, then I’ll move over to a competitor that does. Other consumers may go to Walgreens for the very reason I might leave. We’re all acting out of “socially conscious” motives, are we not?

There is a way, meanwhile, politicians can put themselves in charge: They can buy the business.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com. Copyright 2023, Creators.com.

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