Activism

Big Corporations Are Openly Backing Trump's Hate Agenda—Let's Boycott Them

Americans can vote with their dollars to defend immigrants' rights every day.

May Day protest in New York City, 2017.
Photo Credit: Ilana Novick

"You must pick a side," Deborah Axt said of corporate America on a recent press call. "Either you stand with our communities or with hate."

Axt, who is the co-executive director of immigration advocacy organization Make The Road New York, was launching Corporate Backers of Hate, a new campaign from Make The Road New York and the Center for Popular Democracy in collaboration with a coalition of other immigrant and labor advocacy organizations. The new campaign targets nine companies—JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Disney, Boeing, BlackRock, Uber, and Blackstone—that are close to the Trump administration and have a financial stake in his most abusive policies, particularly immigrant detention and attacks on workers' rights. 

The campaign began with a website, where visitors can learn about the nine companies' labor practices and violations and their connections to private prisons and immigrant detention centers. Armed with that information, people can use the site to contact the companies and encourage them to withdraw their investments and refrain from bidding on the opportunity to participate in Trump's border wall construction. There will also be a social media strategy and an upcoming campaign to encourage cities and states to limit business dealings with the nine companies. 

The site also has a calendar with opportunities to join upcoming direct actions at the companies' offices across the country, to further remind them that, as Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Center for Popular Democracy noted, "you are on notice... Trump's agenda is not just ideological, but economic. We want to make sure the public understands." 

The organizers hope to make Americans aware of just how connected these companies are to the larger anti-immigration agenda, and just how easily one's hard-earned money can inadvertently go to corporations whose business practices hurt the most vulnerable. The Corporate Backers of Hate site clearly lays out the connections, making it much easier for consumers to fight back. Many Americans will have to wait until 2018 until they can vote for elected officials, but until then, they can vote with their dollars. 

Axt explained that the success of these policies "depends heavily on how much collaboration [Trump] receives from companies willing to finance it." Taking inspiration from the success of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline campaign, which convinced cities including Seattle to divest from companies that supported the project, Corporate Backers of Hate wants to expand public outcry against Trump to include the companies that make his agenda possible.

As Matt Nelson, executive director of Presente, explains, now is the best time to extend the momentum of campaigns like GrabYourWallet, which helps consumers boycott Trump products: "Companies are at an all-time high of vulnerability to public pressures... this campaign marks a new phase of corporate accountability." After all, he notes, "Millions of people are taking daily action, demanding companies be very clear in not siding with Trump. 

For example, JP Morgan Chase donated $500,000 to Trump's inaugural committee. Along with Wells Fargo, the two are among the largest financiers of America's largest private prison companies, the GEO Group and CoreCivic. BlackRock has an 11 percent stake in CoreCivic and a 12 percent stake in the GEO Group.

Manuel A., a member of Make The Road New York, told reporters about escaping gang violence in El Salvador, only to come to America and face a two-month stay in a CoreCivic Facility inmates called the Ice Box, because it was kept so cold. Manuel said, "I felt like a criminal... did not have my freedom, could not see my family. [Prison staff] blocked my calls and I had to work inside [the] detention center and was paid $1 a day... That's not enough to pay a lawyer." 

The direct actions began May 1, when 12 immigration advocates were arrested outside of JP Morgan's New York City headquarters. Those arrested included Center for Popular Democracy's Ana Maria Archila. The protesters carried signs saying "Our Profit, Our Pain” and chanted, “¡Chase, escucha, estamos en la lucha!” ("Chase, listen, we’re in the struggle!"). According to the organizers, this is the beginning of a nationwide series of direct actions, social media campaigns, and eventually, boycotts.

All of the organizers acknowledged that in order to convince the companies to divest from private prisons and the looming border wall, it's not enough to appeal to their morals; one has to appeal to their bottom line. Just as Fox News fired Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly because they feared losing advertisers, the nine companies must be convinced that their profits will tank in order for the campaigns to make a difference. As Sulma Arias, immigration field director of Fair Immigration Reform Movement, says, "Every place they face the public, they will be held accountable. They should feel their brand is vulnerable any place they interact with the public."

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.

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