When Capital Speaks Louder Than, Well, Human Rights

Much ado was made about the so-called “bathroom bills” in North Carolina. Remember that story? Complacent Republican governor Pat McCrory signed into law a Republican legislative bill, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, that would effectively force transgender citizens to use bathroom facilities associated with their gender assigned at birth. The bill also preĂ«mpted local control of minimum wage laws, because local control is okay until local Democrats electeds push back against Republican legislators. So intense was the backlash that it was estimated to have cost the state points on its total GDP, and the law was later repealed under the tenure of Democrat Roy Cooper. A similar story is playing out in Georgia at the moment with the so-called “heartbeat bill” (N.b.: abortion ban) signed into law yesterday by Governor Brian Kemp, but the response from the business world at the tail end of the longest bull market in US history is basically a shrug at this point.

I reached out to the largest corporations in the state of Georgia, including Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot, and a few others that you’ve probably never heard of. I received a response from one company. This isn’t shocking, as most megacorporations have a lousy media apparatus for dealing with smaller media players (even when I am writing for my local newspaper). Matthew O’Connor, spokesperson for UPS, said the following in a statement: “We respect our employees’ different viewpoints on this deeply personal topic, and encourage them to share their views with their elected officials.”

I ran this through Google Translate from Corporate-Late-Capitalism-Speak and came up with something to the effect of, “We respect our employees’ different viewpoints, which may include the right that they would like to criminalize the right to abortion and make access to women’s healthcare punishable by death.

In addition to the heaviest-hitters in the publicly traded realm, which represent the better part of a trillion dollars in market capitalization (mostly from Coca Cola and Home Depot), Georgia also has a billion-plus dollar film industry. Walking Dead, Stranger Things, Ozark— big name stuff. I was curious to know if any representatives of that industry had a response to the bill: it seems that some do and some have been quieter, and it depends on whom you ask, as the media has already characterized the responses in both ways. Netflix declined to comment and directed me to the MPAA, which released a statement basically saying that the film industry is very significant and large in Georgia and no, they’re not prepared to publicly condemn the law, but someone else is likely to challenge it in court. Seems like a pretty good metaphor for liberalism in 2019– “hey, let someone else do it.

To be clear, this law is unlikely to hold up in court. But I am assuming that Republicans are interested in pushing it to the Supreme Court, ever on their quest to overturn Roe v. Wade, that destroyer of worlds. Meanwhile, the civilized remainder of the country, including some folks down south, even (solidarity, y’all), wait with bated breath to see how quickly the backlash will effect a resolution that preserves and improves access to healthcare for women. The tepid response from the biggest capital players suggests that maybe in late capitalism, we’re in deeper doo-doo than most of us want to admit.

Nat Zorach

Nat M. Zorach, AICP is a city planner, community development professional, and MBA candidate at American University's Kogod School of Business, based in Detroit.

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