- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2022

Conservatives have launched new initiatives aimed at removing “woke politics” from corporate boardrooms as the annual season of shareholder meetings winds down.

The projects announced this week include an “anti-wokeness” webinar, an online index that evaluates companies’ diversity of viewpoints and a flurry of shareholder actions.

They are the latest in a wide-ranging attack on corporate America’s sponsorship of racial equity and transgender policies, deepening a rift between boardrooms and once business-friendly Republicans.

Color Us United, a conservative civil rights group that advocates a color-blind approach to race issues, will hold a National Webfest For Employees Against Woke Workplaces for corporate workers on June 9.

“Many employees are aware that their company is discriminating against non-preferred races and canceling and even firing employees who speak out,” Kenny Xu, Color Us United president, said in an email.

“Yet perhaps they…are unaware that there is a national woke agenda behind this and it is bent on internalizing wokeness across companies in America nationwide,” he said.

The keynote speaker will be entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, a political pundit and author of the book “Woke Inc.”

“Start by depoliticizing corporate America,” Mr. Ramaswamy told The Washington Times. “To do that, we need to depoliticize the investment industry that tells corporate America how to behave. If we do that, the rest of the culture will follow and hopefully rally behind the shared pursuit of excellence in our country again.”

On Thursday, the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and Inspire Investing launched a Viewpoint Diversity Score website and Business Index that evaluates 50 Fortune 1000 companies based on their diversity of perspectives, rather than skin color and gender.

Attorney Jeremey Tedesco, ADF senior vice president for corporate engagement, said the website offers policies to help companies become “tolerant businesses that respect free speech and religious freedom.”

“Our goal is to be constructive partners who help businesses understand why it’s important for them to respect viewpoint diversity and how to do it,” Mr. Tedesco said.

Conservatives have argued that it’s bad business for companies to conduct race-based hiring and fund LGBT advocacy groups that encourage transgenderism discussions for small children.

On Tuesday, State Farm ended a partnership with the GenderCool Project to distribute transgender books to children starting at age five, amid a widespread public backlash. The title of one book: “A Kids Book About Being Transgender.”

“Distributing LGBT propaganda to elementary schools is harmful to children, just like defunding the police is harmful to children and adults,” Pastor Marc Little, a board member of Concerned Communities for America, said regarding the decision.

“So-called ‘woke’ corporations need to wake up and realize that they are actually hurting their own bottom lines by engaging in far-left activism,” Mr. Little said.

Conservative shareholder activists from the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), which purchases stock in companies through its Free Enterprise Project, had more mixed results asking three companies last Friday to end their affiliation with the Human Rights Campaign LGBT advocacy group.

The campaign has lobbied companies like Disney for money to fight Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — a ban on gender identity and sexuality discussion in K-3 classrooms that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed in late March.

At their annual shareholder meetings, Northrop Grumman pledged to reexamine the partnership, Nordstrom reiterated its support and Macy’s did not answer the question.

Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden responded: “We do not necessarily support the objectives of all of the organizations that we participate in, holistically. There is good work done by all of them, but there is also work that we may not support directly…. And I’ll take under advisement this one in particular, and we will do so following the meeting.”

At Nordstrom’s virtual meeting on Wednesday, President Pete Nordstrom said the company supports its “LGBTQ+ employees, their families and their communities” in being “who they are whether they’re at home, at school, or shopping or working at one of our stores.”

“That’s why we felt it was important to sign on to a statement from the Human Rights Campaign earlier this year, joining other businesses in affirming support for the LGBTQ+ community,” Mr. Nordstrom said.

The NCPPR has attended 50 annual shareholder meetings this year — including BlackRock, Amazon, Exxon, Chevron, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley, Merck and Lincoln National over the past week.

On Wednesday, it proposed racial equity audits at the shareholder meetings of Twitter, Lowe’s and Facebook parent company Meta.

Shareholders at all three companies followed the recommendation of their boards to vote against the proposals, which sought to ensure equal treatment for employees who are not considered “diverse” in hiring.

“We are committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion, including in our operations, business, and engagement with shareholders, customers, and employees. We also acknowledge the importance of civil rights and non-discrimination, including the impact on our workplace and employment practices,” Meta’s board wrote in the company proxy statement.

Meta, Twitter and Amazon shareholders also voted on Wednesday against resolutions to audit their corporate funding of left-wing advocacy groups.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), which also purchases stock in companies, presented the resolutions, which the companies’ boards deemed unnecessary.

“Our existing disclosure on our charitable contributions provides ample information for our shareholders to understand the nature of our charitable activities,” Amazon‘s board said in its proxy statement.

But Paul Chesser, director of the NLPC’s Corporate Integrity Project who presented the resolutions, said it was a good week for conservative shareholder activists.

“We believe the big picture is what’s important at this juncture. More conservative-leaning groups are getting involved and are showing up at shareholder meetings,” Mr. Chesser said Friday.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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