Woke Coke, like Nike, might rightly suffer for political bullying

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May 26, 2021, 6:58:53 AM5/26/21
Far too many corporate giants have engaged in ill-informed pandering to
left-wing political causes, all while their own stables need major house-
cleaning. They may suffer as they learn that political turnabout is fair
play. And that's a good thing.

A nearly 100-year-old group called Consumers’ Research, dedicated to
“consumer knowledge and freedom,” today released a large “name and shame”
campaign against companies that spend too much time “putting woke politics
over consumer interests.” CR has made a seven-figure ad buy against Coca-
Cola, Nike, and American Airlines on national cable outlets and in local
markets where the companies are headquartered. This is just “the first phase”
of what will be an “ongoing campaign” called the Consumers First Initiative.

A quick perusal of the ads (via the link immediately above) shows this group
means business (pun originally unintended). Against Nike, for example, the
ads say the company’s frequent forays into left-wing politics are “cover” for
its own allegedly nefarious activities.

“Congressional reports suspect Nike used forced labor in China,” says one ad.
“Religious minorities were ripped from their families, sterilized, sold to
factories. Nike made shoes in those same areas. Congress tried to ban Nike’s
labor practices. Nike fought back with highly paid lobbyists. Rather than
hiring Americans, Nike chose China.” And so on.

Likewise, CR hit Coke for allegedly participating in “forced labor” in China
and also for trying to “distract” from plummeting sales and from being
exposed for “funding phony science” to hide how its products are contributing
to an American obesity epidemic. The group hit American Airlines for poor
customer service, losing luggage, and for taking “billions in taxpayer
bailouts” while cutting 19,000 jobs at the same time it pays its CEO a $10
million salary.

This is tough stuff, and all of it merited. A number of big corporations are
astonishingly hypocritical, falsely accusing American jurisdictions of
violating civil rights while themselves contributing to far, far worse
violations of much more basic human rights in other countries. For companies
such as Nike, “rights” appear to end wherever their profits begin.

Note that this ad campaign does not fall into the trap of making explicit
calls for boycotts of these companies’ products. Instead, it just aims to
inform viewers and consumers about the moral rot within these corporations.

All too often, these companies try to leverage their own financial weight to
bully others into adopting controversial political positions, even when
company officials can’t even begin to describe what it is against which they
protest. Or, hypocritically, worse: In the recent brouhaha about the Georgia
voting-procedure reforms, for example, Delta Air Lines made a big show of
castigating Georgia after the law was passed, even though it had praised the
Legislature’s work behind the scenes.

One can only hope that Consumers’ Research soon targets Major League
Baseball, which, in the most directly damaging corporate action in years,
moved its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver to protest that same Georgia
law. Not only was it wrong about the Georgia law, which is a perfectly
legitimate effort to codify new voting practices in ways that actually expand
voting opportunities, but MLB’s supposed cure was entirely counterproductive.
In the name of helping black Americans, MLB took a game with an estimated
$100 million economic boost away from a city that is 54% black to one that is
less than 9% black.

In the end, CR’s message is that powerful corporations should stick to
business and to serving their consumers. As part of a robust political
discourse, it’s an entirely legitimate argument for CR to make.

Trump won.

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