Monday, August 23, 2010

Should we, the Gay Community, and our Allies Boycott Target?

Here's the facts:

Target gave $150,000.- as a donation to an anti-gay, anti-union candidate for Governor of Minnesota. HRC (the gay human rights organization) met with Target to try to either a) get them to apologize to the queer community or b) have them make an equal contribution to donation to the pro-gay candidate. They did neither. In fact, HRC announced last week that

"After two weeks of good-faith discussions – and two tentative agreements – with Target Corporation, the company has informed the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, that it will take no corrective actions to repair the harm that it caused by contributing $150,000 to an organization supporting a vehemently anti-gay candidate closely associated with a Christian rock band that advocates death and violence to gay people. In response, HRC announced that it will devote $150,000 of its own resources to help elect a pro-equality governor and legislature in Minnesota. The next governor will likely have the opportunity to either sign or veto marriage equality legislation in the North Star State."

Check out this response. It takes civil disobedience to a whole new level!

So what do you think? Should we still shop at Target?


More info from Yahoo here

And from HRC here


Anonymous said...

I'm very torn on the issue. What's missing from much of the coverage is the fact that Target has been very supportive of the LGBT community for years. They have a non-discrimination policy and the HRC will even admit that, for years, they received the highest rating for LGBT-friendly businesses. Locally in Minnesota, they've always been supporters of the MN AIDS Walk and have a large presence at Pride.

Part of me thinks we should give them the benefit of the doubt when they say their decision to contribute to MN Forward was based purely on how the PAC had promised to contribute to candidates who would make job creation a priority, and that they hadn't really taken other issues into consideration when making that decision.

True, they are reluctant to make a similar donation to LGBT-friendly candidates. But even though they are a huge corporation with seemingly endless resources, is it not possibly that they simply can't afford to cough up a similar donation? Times are hard all around (even for corporations) and it could be that $150,000 was all they had earmarked for such contributions. And now they may be regretting blowing it all in one place.

Full disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with Target. I do live in MN amidst this and when I first heard about it, I immediately swore I'd never shop at Target again. As time goes on and I try to see things from their perspective (and I remember how much they've done for the LGBT community in the past, something others seem far too eager to forget), I'm less sure a boycott is productive.

Will Target consider pulling out of the MN AIDS Walk and/or Pride out of fear that the volunteers they send to man the booths will be harassed over this issue? Or will they simply say, "We've been strong supporters for years and when we made one mistake, you abandoned us" and demonstrate that the loyalty street can run both ways?

I don't think there's enough evidence to point to a shift in Target's basic ideology. We've all had friends make bad, sometimes hurtful, decisions which, at the time, they thought were right. We often can forgive them. As I said, I'm torn on this issue. But it seems to me this situation is much like that.

Anonymous said...

Lee, Target actually did apologize very early on and said they would develop a new policy for corporate giving but HRC was all about the money. They demanded that Target give them $150K or they would take them off the Corporate Equality index. It was out and out blackmail and Target didn't go for it. I personally think HRC wanted to show that they were "with the people" and not part of "gay Inc." as they have been criticized. I don't condone the donations that Target, Best Buy and most of the other Minneapolis based corporations gave to Emmer but it is interesting that we are only boycotting one of the most progressive companies in terms of gay and trans issues in American and we haven't heard a peep about boycots of the other companies who gave to Emmer. Lee Rubin

MotherReader said...

I am generally a big Target shopper, but I've been avoiding the place since the contribution news. I had to go once for a specific item for daughter's play wardrobe, but we spectacularly didn't shop.

That said, I don't really know how Target can make amends without angering the right-wing folks - who will boycott Target, but with better organization I suspect.

Mostly, I hope this comes down to less about Target - which I think made a stupid, unresearched mistake - and more about the ridiculous idea of treating corporations like people in terms of campaign contributions. Maybe the mess that Target got itself into will keep other corps. out of the political arena.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

I'm divided on it too.

I don't think Target donated the money to be malicious. I don't think they did their homework first before giving the money, but that's not such a bad thing. I think HRC is making a huge stink over something a lot of businesses do. Why target Target (heh) in particular? Target is one of the more progressive companies out there. Demonizing them this way sends a message to other queer-friendly companies that the GLBTQI community will turn on them at the slightest and give them bad press.

I'm not boycotting or supporting Target because I don't shop there anyway. So it's all the same to me. *shrug*

StalkingSarah said...

I'm torn as well. They gave to a candidate who supports an anti-LGBT org, not to that org directly. And while that candidate doesn't support the LGBT community, Target clearly does. I think I'm not happy about it, but I'm okay with it. Their mission isn't to help the LGBT community, it's to sell stuff. And the fact that they support us so clearly 99% of the time makes me think this whole incident has been a bit blown out of proportion.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

I want to thank everyone so far for their comments - in particular pointing out the support Target has given to the GLBTQ community in the past - in fact, I just checked it out, that in HRC's own 2010 Equality Index ( )Target scored 100% - in Fact, Target on all 6 criteria


ProvidesDiversityTrainingCoveringGenderIdentityOR Has supportive Gender Transition Guidelines (5 points)

Offers Transgender-Inclusive Insurance Coverage for at Least One Type of Benefit (5 points) (+ Offers Transgender-Inclusive Insurance Coverage, Including surgical Procedures)

Offers Partner Health Insurance (15 points) Offers Partner Dental, vision, COBRA and Dependent Coverage Benefits (5 points)

Offers at Least Three Other “soft” Benefits for Partners (5 points)

Has Employer-supported Employee Resource Group OR Firm-wide Diversity Council (15 points) (/ would support ERG if Employees Express Interest, half-credit)

Positively Engages the External LGBT Community (15 points)

Exhibits Responsible Behavior Toward the LGBT Community; Does Not Engage in Action That would Undermine LGBT Equality. Employers Found Engaging in such Activities will Have 15 Points Removed From Their scores. (0 points)

It looks like at worst, they will lose 15 points in the 2011 equality index - leaving them at 85% supportive. Does it make sense to boycott for someone who is 85% supportive, as opposed to Exxon, which scored a 0%?

Really good stuff to discuss and consider!
thanks, all!

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 5:35

To clarify: Target didn't apologize for what they did. They sent an apology to their LGBT employees saying that they were sorry they were hurt by the decision. That may sound like "potato, potahto," but there is a difference.

Also, HRC did not blackmail Target. HRC did enter into discussions and they urged Target to make donations to LGBT-friendly candidates. HRC is in no position to blackmail Target. In fact, HRC isn't advocating a boycott (unlike

And, yes, there have been movements to boycott Best Buy as well. Both being promoted by The Target boycott is getting more attention because Target is a larger company with more stores per capita across the country (you'll find more Targets in rural parts of the country than you'll ever find Best Buys).

Honestly, media reporting of the whole affair has been disgustingly biased on both sides. It's easy to see how one can arrive at the conclusion that HRC was blackmailing Target. (Is the HRC imprimatur REALLY that important? Not to dismiss what the HRC does because they do amazing work but I think an exponentially small number of people are influenced by their rating system. In other words, the threat of losing their 100% is a hollow one at best. HRC has nothing to bargain with, therefore they can't 'blackmail.')

Unless Target does a 180 and starts revoking its fair hiring practices, its benefits policies, and its support of other LGBT, I think this should be chalked up to "Wow, we really didn't think this decision through. Next time, we'll be more careful."

Here's a new question: if MN Forward, the PAC supporting Tom Emmer, really is interested in helping Minnesota businesses, wouldn't it behoove them to say, "Because of our strong commitment to strengthening businesses in Minnesota, we are going to return the $150,000 donation to Target, as we don't want it to negatively impact their business, which would be in direct contradiction with our charter."

Food for thought.

Steph said...

Well, I love Target as a store, and I live in Minnesota, so this is deeply upsetting to me. However, I strongly doubt that Target made the decision to donate to Emmer because he is homophobic, even without learning of all the great stuff Target does for LGBT people. "Target" is not an individual person, so I think is is safe to assume there was at least some division on this issue. In the end, a decision was made to support the candidate that they thought best, whether or not they agreed with everything he stands for. Really, this is kind of sucky, but not an act of pure evil, and a boycott would act as a way for individuals to vent their frustrations rather than affecting anything that's already happened.

In any case, politics normally make me feel out of my depth, but I am old enough to vote now, and it's probably time I started keeping better track of these things...

Hayden said...

Here's an interesting development: Shareholders of Target and Best Buy are hopping mad over the anti-LGBT donations.

Anonymous said...

In this economy, doesn't every single candidate have job creation as a top priority? Frankly, "job creation" doesn't seem to be a great justification for donating to such a candidate or PAC.

Also, "job creation" is often code for busting unions, gutting environmental regulations, etc., using the old myths that progressive policies hurt our economy, as an excuse to give corporations ever more power.

I also fail to see how discriminating against LGBT citizens will move "MN Forward."

But I wouldn't suggest people boycott Target unless they're sure that when they go elsewhere, they're actually going somewhere better.

Sometimes I think it might be better for LGBT civil rights overall if there were a one-day boycott of all businesses, just to illustrate that people who care about this cause do have enough economic power to be valued players at the policy table.

kittens not kids said...

This is disturbing, but also makes me feel incredibly helpless. I've been conscientiously NOT shopping WalMart for years, because of their appalling labor/anti-union practices. If Target is also added to the boycott list, I'm suddenly left without a cheap place to buy cat litter and laundry detergent. And I simply do NOT have the financial resources to pay more for things. I barely get by as it is.
Almost every national chain has politically, socially and ethically dubious contribution history. It's incredibly hard to boycott them ALL. Once you start digging into the history of any company's board or CEO or whomever, unsavory things turn up.

How do we handle THAT?