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Corporations Are Being Dragged into the Culture Wars

Big national corporations normally strive mightily to stay out of politics for fear of offending many customers. Those days are over as shareholders and employees often push corporate officials to take sides on controversial matters now. For example, employees of the Walt Disney Corporation pushed management to oppose Florida's "Don't say gay" law, which resulted in Ron DeSantis deciding to punish the Mouse. More recently, Walgreens caved to pressure from 21 Republican AGs and decided not to sell mifepristone in its stores in their states. This resulted in Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-VA) announcing that he would not renew Walgreen's $60 million contract with California. Staying neutral is nearly impossible now.

A related problem is that younger workers and consumers want corporations to take sides on issues. In many cases, young people prefer working for, or buying from, corporations whose publicly stated views align with theirs. They also are willing to boycott firms whose view they oppose. CEOs now have to navigate this minefield.

In 2015, over 350 companies signed on as friends of the court in support of same-sex marriage. After the murder of George Floyd, the nation's 50 largest corporations committed $50 billion to addressing racial inequality. These actions has made them targets for right-wing Republicans, starting with DeSantis.

It has only gotten worse. After the Dobbs decision, dozens of corporations said that they would reimburse travel expenses for employees who needed an abortion and had to travel to another state to obtain one. Corporations headquartered in blue states but which have some employees in red states took the lead here. A reaction was inevitable. Texas Republicans want to criminalize this. They also want to force Internet providers to block websites that provide information about how to get abortions out-of-state or how to order abortion pills out-of-state. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has written a bill denying tax breaks to corporations that pay for interstate abortions. The corporations most caught in the crossfire are ones that are directly involved in abortions, like Walgreens. Either they sell the pills nationally or they don't. But for many others, avoiding taking sides on controversial issues is increasingly difficult. (V)

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