The largest company headquartered in Georgia, Home Depot, is being told that if it fails to publicly denounce the state’s voting law reform legislation, it will be boycotted. This isn’t coming from Black Lives Matter, per se. The corporation is being held hostage by religious leaders who demand specific talking points be delivered … or else.
Corporations, especially those headquartered in Georgia, have come out against the legislation signed by Governor Kemp. Republicans describe the bill as one that addresses election integrity while Democrats call it a voter suppression law – “Jim Crow 2.0”. Coca-Cola and Delta were among the first to make a point to virtue-signal after the governor signed the bill, only to be exposed as taking part in the process and giving input into the legislation. Both were fine with the law until the governor signed it and grievance activists did their thing. Coke soon discovered that not all of its consumers think that companies should be making policy – that ‘s the job of lawmakers- and now it is trying to clean up the mess it made for itself.
Churches have increasingly played a part in American politics and this is an escalation of that trend. Evangelical churches have shown support for conservative and Republican candidates while black churches get out the vote for Democrats. This threat of bringing a large-scale boycott over state legislation is a hostile action against the corporation. It’s political theatre. Groups like Black Voters Matter, the New Georgia Project Action Fund (Stacey Abrams), and the Georgia NAACP are pressuring companies to publicly voice their opposition and the religious leaders are doing the bidding of these politically active groups.
When SB 241 and HB 531 were working through the legislative process, the groups put pressure on Republican lawmakers and the governor to abandon the voting reform legislation. They also demanded that donations to any lawmakers supporting the legislation be stopped. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce tried to remain bipartisan while still voicing support for voting rights but then caved and expressed “concern and opposition” to some provisions. At the time, several large Georgia companies were targeted by activists, including Aflac, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Home Depot, Southern Company and UPS.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce previously reiterated the importance of voting rights without voicing opposition against any specific legislation. In a new statement to CNBC, the Georgia Chamber said it has “expressed concern and opposition to provisions found in both HB 531 and SB 241 that restrict or diminish voter access” and “continues to engage in a bipartisan manner with leaders of the General Assembly on bills that would impact voting rights in our state.”
Office Depot came out at the time and supported the Chamber’s statement. The Election Integrity Act of 2021, originally known as Georgia Senate Bill 202, is a Georgia law overhauling elections in the state that was signed into effect by the governor and we know what happened. Office Depot has not delivered for the activists as they demand so now the company faces boycott drama. The religious leaders are taking up where the activist groups left off.
African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Reginald Jackson said the company has remained “silent and indifferent” to his efforts to rally opposition to the new state law pushed by Republicans, as well as to similar efforts elsewhere.
“We just don’t think we ought to let their indifference stand,” Jackson said.
The leader of all his denomination’s churches in Georgia, Jackson had a meeting last week with other Georgia-based executives to urge them to oppose the voting law, but said he’s had no contact with Home Depot, despite repeated efforts to reach the company.
Faith leaders at first were hesitant to jump into the boycott game. Now the political atmosphere has changed and they are being vocal. Jackson focused on pressuring Coca-Cola first. After that company went along to get along, before it realized its error, Jackson moved his focus onto other companies.
“We believe that corporations have a corporate responsibility to their customers, who are Black, white and brown, on the issue of voting,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t make any sense at all to keep giving dollars and buying products from people that do not support you.”
He said faith leaders may call for boycotts of other companies in the future.
So, here we are with Home Depot in the spotlight. There are four specific demands leveled at Home Depot in order to avoid further action from the activists.
Rev. Lee May, the lead pastor of Transforming Faith Church, said the coalition is “fluid in this boycott” but has four specifics requests of Home Depot: To speak out publicly and specifically against SB 202; to speak out against any other restrictive voting provisions under consideration in other states; to support federal legislation that expands voter access and “also restricts the ability to suppress the vote;” and to support any efforts, including investing in litigation, to stop SB 202 and other bills like it.
“Home Depot, we’re calling on you. I’m speaking to you right now. … We’re ready to have a conversation with you. You haven’t been ready up to now, but our arms are wide open. We are people of faith. People of grace, and we’re ready to have this conversation, but we’re very clear those four things that we want to see accomplished,” May said.
The Rev. Timothy McDonald III, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church, warned this was just the beginning.
“It’s up to you whether or not, Home Depot, this boycott escalates to phase two, phase three, phase four,” McDonald said. “We’re not on your property — today. We’re not blocking your driveways — today. We’re not inside your store protesting — today. This is just phase one.”
That sounds a lot like incitement, doesn’t it? Governor Kemp is speaking out, he has had enough. He held a press conference to deliver his comments.
“First, the left came for baseball, and now they are coming for Georgia jobs,” Kemp said, referring to MLB’s decision to move this year’s All-Star Game from Atlanta over the new laws. “This boycott of Home Depot – one of Georgia’s largest employers – puts partisan politics ahead of people’s paychecks.”
“The Georgians hardest hit by this destructive decision are the hourly workers just trying to make ends meet during a global pandemic. I stand with Home Depot, and I stand with nearly 30,000 Georgians who work at the 90 Home Depot stores and 15 distribution centers across the Peach State. I will not apologize for supporting both Georgia jobs and election integrity,” he added.
“This insanity needs to stop. The people that are pushing this, that are profiting off of it, like Stacey Abrams and others, are now trying to have it both ways,” Kemp said. “There is a political agenda here, and it all leads back to Washington, D.C.”
The governor is right. The activists are in it to federalize elections, not to look out for Georgians, who will lose jobs over these partisan actions. The law signed by Kemp increases voting rights, it doesn’t limit them.