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Big Business’ Performative Pride

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As we enter Pride month, a time of year where many people find courage to come out of the closet, corporations roll out their marketing schemes, looking to capitalize on queer joy and the memory of the Stonewall riots. The likes of Svedka, Delta, and Marathon are the typical big sponsors in major cities’ celebrations. But while they’re waving rainbow flags with one hand, corporations are funding anti-LGBTQ lawmakers with the other.

The political action committees for Constellation Brands, Svedka’s parent company, Delta, and Marathon have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2024 alone to Republican politicians running on promises of making the LGBTQ+ community’s lives a living nightmare. Some are incumbent candidates who have already helped pass anti-trans bills in Congress within the last year (names like Sam Graves, Ted Cruz, and Dan Crenshaw). And those three PACs aren’t the only ones: dozens of articles have been written in recent years about “Pride friendly” corporations and their secret donations to the very people that attack trans rights and queer liberation.

Delta is the biggest sponsor at Minneapolis Pride this summer, and were praised a few years ago for an ad poster depicting a gay couple on one of their flights. In this political climate, where the right wing is viciously attacking queer people, even symbolic depictions of queer life can be a comfort. However, it’s a cold comfort when you learn that Delta has spent over $200,000 on GOP PACs and Trump this year, funding campaigns that will undoubtedly aid in passing laws similar to Florida’s homophobic Don’t Say Gay bill. And with anti-trans laws being passed nationwide, these attacks worsen everyday travel experiences for trans and nonbinary people. Who cares that Delta’s at Pride if their own passengers are traumatized trying to use the airport bathroom that matches their gender identity? While it’s true that brands promoting representation play a positive role in shifting societal views, it’s all for naught if those same brands fund politicians that will enact Draconian laws that set us back decades. Bud Light can feature a trans influencer in one of their commercials, but if they spent over $300,000 courting Republican campaigns in 2022, they have a direct effect on how safe, or rather, unsafe, trans people feel simply stepping into a bar in America.

Toyota is another company that has been hailed for having inclusionary policies for their LGBTQ+ employees, yet donated $600k to anti-LGBTQ legislators between 2020 and 2022. Mercedes-Benz has an LGBTQ employee resource group (ERG), but worked with Alabama Republicans and other business groups to crush unionization efforts at their Vance plant in May. A good union contract would include transparent pay scales to address gender pay gap, a clear grievance process and protections when addressing workplace harassment, and collective bargaining to make healthcare trans-inclusive, better, and cheaper for all workers. 

Amazon, like Mercedes-Benz, has an LGBTQ+ employee resource group called “Glamazon.” On Amazon’s own website, they cite that “LGBTQ+ employees face unique challenges at work, including increased rates of sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and orientation.” But Amazon won’t stand for those same employees organizing a union and winning a strong contract that protects workers facing harassment and discrimination. They’re in the midst of a colossal union-busting effort as workers try to unionize Amazon’s KCVG Air Hub in Northern Kentucky. They’ve violated labor laws to the point that the National Labor Relations Board put them on trial in April; the multibillion-dollar company has lawyers who effectively delayed the case further. Despite this deflection and Amazon’s illegal labor practices, workers are still fighting for $30/hr, 180 hours of PTO, translation rights at work, union reps present at disciplinary meetings, and childcare. When the reality is that LGBTQ+ workers earn about $0.90 for every dollar a cis/heterosexual worker typically earns, and they’re less likely to be offered various employee benefits, it’s clear that a union win would be a victory for LGBTQ+ workers not just at Amazon, but beyond. 

While corporations taking a stand can have an impact in this political climate, it’s important to see where that “stand” comes from: companies, above all else, want to make a profit. Much of Gen Z has been in the workforce for years now, and is the queerest generation yet. Companies don’t want to miss out on that key demographic when it comes to selling their products. They’ll churn out rainbow anything for a month if it’ll fill their pockets. They’ll create an ERG to make LGBTQ+ employees feel accepted, but refuse to pay those same workers a living wage with benefits, including gender-affirming healthcare. 

To quote Marsha P. Johnson, one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall riots, “you never completely have your rights, one person, until you all have your rights.” Because corporations operate in a capitalist system that puts profit over people, they can never fully deliver what working people need – and they do not hold any answers for working people of color, working people with disabilities, or working people in the LGBTQ+ community. 

Corporations have no place in Pride, a celebration with radical roots and liberation at its core. Keep corporations out of Pride and, instead, link up the labor movement with the queer and trans liberation movement. It’s on us to deliver for ourselves everything that we deserve: the right to be safe, healthy, housed, and to have our needs met so we can truly live a life of dignity and pride.

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