6 Companies That Stand Up for Gay Rights (Now If They Only Had Good Labor Practices Too)
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But as I've reported in the past, American Apparel also has a history of treating many of its workers, particularly women, very poorly. The company's founder and CEO, Dov Charney, has been sued by more than a dozen employees for sexual harassment. But most of the cases haven't made it anywhere due to the arbitration and confidentiality agreements that new employees are required to sign.
Apple made headlines last fall for donating $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, which outlawed same-sex marriage in California. The company stated, "Apple was among the first California companies to offer equal rights and benefits to our employees' same-sex partners, and we strongly believe that a person's fundamental rights -- including the right to marry -- should not be affected by their sexual orientation. Apple views this as a civil rights issue, rather than just a political issue, and is therefore speaking out publicly against Proposition 8."
However, it's well documented that Apple relies heavily on the Chinese factory Foxconn, which treats its workers terribly and where more than a dozen workers have committed suicide. Apple says it has addressed the labor issues at Foxconn, and yet widespread reports indicate that the problems persist. Does the company not believe as strongly in Chinese workers' fundamental civil rights?
Incidentally, Apple has also come under fire from gay rights groups in the past for approving anti-gay iPhone applications.
Earlier this month, Amazon became one of the latest major companies to get behind Washington's marriage equality legislation, saying that "[t]he spirit of these bills is consistent with our longstanding employment practices."
Also consistent with Amazon's longstanding employment practices is treating the employees in their warehouses "as disposable as the products they're shipping," Mac McClelland reported in Mother Jones this past holiday season. Amazon's warehouse employees are chronically overworked and underpaid and made to stuff boxes in sweltering temperatures.
In a related blog post, McClelland noted that "every one of Amazon's millions of customers should write them a really angry letter demanding change. Except we won't. Because then our shipping wouldn't be free."
That sentiment gets to the heart of why all these companies will profess their support for gay rights while treating many of their workers poorly. If we, as consumers, don't show them that stepping up their labor practices makes smart financial sense, they will never do a thing. But we shouldn't find that depressing. Instead, we should recognize that we hold tremendous power to encourage companies to do the right thing. The next step is wielding that power.
Lauren Kelley is an associate editor at AlterNet and a freelance writer and editor who has contributed to Change.org, The L Magazine and Time Out New York. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter here.