Boycotts against Bud Light, Target, and other brands earlier this year put major corporations on notice that their embrace of far-left social politics (often under the cover of “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or DEI initiatives) could seriously impact their bottom line. Building on this momentum, conservative-led lawsuits might soon deliver a fatal blow to the entire DEI industry in corporate America.
As the Wall Street Journal reported in August, conservative legal groups are “arguing that companies are violating rules against race- and sex-discrimination, including those drawn from legislation designed to secure the rights of Black Americans.” Much like the arguments against affirmative action in college admissions offices that prevailed before the Supreme Court earlier this year, conservatives are making the case that corporate policies which take race into consideration when making decisions are in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
Thus far, the results of these lawsuits have been overwhelmingly positive. In recent months, the Journal notes, Comcast settled in a case where the company was accused of unfairly discriminating against white-owned small businesses.
A woman in Texas has also sued Amazon for giving “Black, Latinx, and Native American entrepreneurs” a $10,000 stipend to launch their own delivery companies, with no similar incentive for white entrepreneurs. And a Starbucks shareholder has sued the coffeehouse chain for allegedly breaching its fiduciary duty to shareholders by way of supporting DEI policies.
Though the Starbucks shareholder eventually lost his case in court, this flurry of litigation signals an escalating grassroots resistance to the left’s DEI regime.
Some executives pushing DEI policies have even been forced out of their roles. Last year, just three months after former Coca-Cola General Counsel Bradley Gayton issued a letter to the company’s affiliated law firms declaring that 30 percent of legal work for the company must be performed by “lawyers who are women, LGBTQ+, disabled or members of racial and ethnic minority groups,” the company backtracked, forcing Gayton to step down.
Republican officials have also sent letters to a growing number of corporations warning them to avoid using racial quotas in their hiring practices—a trend that has reportedly caused several companies to consult with their lawyers and quietly reverse course.
“Employment lawyers say it is likely a matter of time before one of these cases reaches the Supreme Court,” the Journal report states—foreshadowing a potentially intense legal showdown that could deliver a fatal blow to corporate DEI policies.
At the forefront of these ongoing battles are groups like America First Legal and the National Center for Public Policy Research, as well as groups like the Claremont Institute and the 1792 Exchange, which have released studies and databases meant to expose corporate wokeism.
Several state attorneys general have also joined in on the action: earlier this year, a group of Republican attorneys general filed a motion to prevent BlackRock from imposing ESG criteria on utility companies. And last February, 25 attorneys general sued the Biden Labor Department for enforcing a rule that “gives retirement plan sponsors more freedom to consider environmental, social and governance factors when selecting investments.”
In May, former Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia also filed a lawsuit against pension funds in New York for their failure to invest in fossil fuel companies based on ESG criteria—even though the vast majority of top performing companies in 2022 were energy companies.
As AMAC Newsline has previously reported, over the last year alone, at least 10 red states (including Utah, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana, and Florida) have passed or introduced legislation that prohibits the consideration of social causes in corporate investment strategies and allows states to take back proxy voting authority from asset managers. More states are poised to pass similar legislation in the months ahead.
If Republicans can retake the Senate and the White House next year, federal action against corporate DEI policies may also be on the table. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s State Government Employee Retirement Protection Act and the Heritage Foundation’s State Pension Fiduciary Duty Act have been introduced as models for state-level legislative initiatives over the last year and offer a framework for what federal anti-DEI legislation could look like.
Of course, the developments of recent months by no means indicate that corporate wokeism is dead. Far too many corporations continue to aggressively promote policies, lifestyles, and worldviews that contradict those of most ordinary Americans.
The encouraging signs from the last several months, however, do suggest that the relationship between big business and militant progressivism may be in peril—and the GOP establishment should not hesitate to double down and embrace an aggressive strategy to dismantle corporate America’s DEI-industrial complex for good.
Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.
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