Update, February 23, 2015: Today, as the bill became law, Walmart finally broke it’s silence and said that it opposes SB 202. Unfortunately, as you will read below, this comes after pouring money into those who supported the bill, including Gov. Hutchinson who allowed the bill to become law. We think it is worth noting that, if the company really wanted to help stop the law, they could have spoken out before the day the bill became law and encouraged their political and business allies to do the same.
This week, SB 202 reached the desk of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. The bill would “limit cities and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that would protect LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations,” according to the Human Rights Campaign. The Arkansas business community, led by retail giant Walmart, has been widely criticized for its silence on this issue.
“Wal-Mart has recently been given high praise and high scores from the LGBT advocates who publicly rate corporate responsibility,” said Tico Almeida, founder of Freedom to Work. “As the largest private employer in Arkansas, Wal-Mart should publicly call for a veto of this bigoted legislation and lobby the Governor to stand on the right side of history. If Wal-Mart remains silent, I hope the corporate giant will be downgraded in the eyes of LGBT consumers and LGBT organizations alike.”
Here are six facts about Walmart and the Waltons’ failure to strengthen civil rights protections for the LGBT community in Arkansas so far:
- Late last year, in Fayetteville, AR (near Walmart’s global headquarters), the City Council passed an anti-LGBT discrimination law in August, 2014. The Chamber of Commerce unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the recall of the a law. The Chamber of Commerce Board includes a Walmart representative and the Ex-Offico Board includes a representative of Arvest Bank, which is owned and run by Walmart owner and Board Member Jim Walton. Sam’s Club and Arvest are also sponsors of the Chamber.
- Since 2006, Walmart and the Waltons have given $30,000 to Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson who is refusing to veto SB 202.
- Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $450,000 to Republican candidates for State Senate and State Assembly in Arkansas since 2000. More than $100,000 of this was in 2014 alone.
- Since 2000, Walmart and the Waltons have given more than $355,000 to the Arkansas Republican Party and the Arkansas Republican House Leadership Committee. More than $136,000 of this total came from Jim Walton, who previously donated heavily to an Arkansas initiative to outlaw adoption by same-sex couples.
- The sponsor of SB 202, Bart Hester, received a contribution from the Arvest Bank PAC in 2012. Arvest Bank is owned by the Walton family and Walmart Board Member Jim Walton is the CEO.
- The Arkansas Chamber of Commerce has been criticized for their silence on this issue. A Walmart representative, Gerard Dehrmann, is a Vice-Chairman of the organization and Walmart is one of only 3 “Apex members” of the State Chamber (the highest level of membership).
Will Walmart and the Walton family speak out for equality or continue to side with those who want to deny LGBT citizens their rights?