Friday, March 4, 2011

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Speaks Out Against Walmart’s Failed Record on LGBT Issues and Endorses Wal-mart Free NYC Campaign

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, one of oldest and largest LGBT organizations in the country, announced its endorsement of the Wal-mart Free NYC campaign in a forceful and detailed statement. The full statement appears below and is followed by reactions from Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which secured the endorsement, and Christine C. Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council.

We have serious concerns about the expansion of Wal-mart into New York City, a historic home of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. With the expansion of Wal-mart stores comes the expansion of antiquated employment policies that provide little to no protections for, and at times even hostility toward, their LGBT employees. On same-sex partnership benefits, gender identity nondiscrimination, diversity training, and other employment policies and workplace issues, Wal-mart is eons behind many companies,” said Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

For example, two of Wal-mart’s top competitors, Costco and Walgreens, both of which operate stores in New York City, offer health care and other benefits to same-sex partners; include gender identity in their nondiscrimination policy; and strive to create an environment in which transgender people feel safe and secure, rather than vulnerable to harm. These are companies with records of leadership on LGBT issues, whereas Wal-mart, the largest private employer in the country, has shown little progress over the years.

Wal-mart’s lack of sensitivity to transgender people is especially important to consider. New York City’s Human Rights Law clearly protects gender identity, yet Wal-mart opposes shareholder resolutions that would require the company’s nondiscrimination policy to cover gender identity, and refuses to uphold the rights of transgender people that many localities and states now recognize. What this means is that Wal-mart stores in New York City could very conceivably create a hostile work environment and invite unlawful behavior.

There are plenty of other examples of Wal-mart standing in the way of justice and equality for LGBT people. To name just a few: Wal-mart CEO Mike Duke is on record opposing gay and lesbian adoption; Wal-mart stores around the country currently sell a book that presents homosexuality as a disease that needs to be cured; and in a widely reported news story a young Wal-mart employee in Las Vegas was outed and shamed on the job last year by his supervisor and later filed a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.

Wal-mart is spending millions to try to convince the public to overlook these dark moments and unacceptable practices so that the damage it would do to New York City will be grossly underestimated. We are glad the Wal-mart Free NYC campaign is cutting through the spin and speaking the truth. People of all backgrounds need to know that Wal-mart’s so-called bargains have always come at too high a price. Instead of establishing a model for other companies, Wal-mart continues to set a bad example. New York City, a historic home of LGBT activism and resistance, is much better off without Wal-mart,” Carey said.

"We applaud the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force for recognizing that Wal-mart still opposes workplace rights and protections which LGBT people have long demanded and now receive at many other places of employment," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), UFCW. "Wal-mart has a failed record on LGBT issues; the Task Force is right to highlight the costs and consequences of that failure as Wal-mart continues its increasingly desperate campaign to enter New York City via the noisiest intersections of profit and deceit."

NYC is a place where we celebrate diversity and protect the rights of all people. Wal-mart, the world’s largest retailer, does not include transgender people in its non-discrimination policies. They also do not voluntarily offer domestic partner benefits to its LGBT employees, only doing so when required to by state law. This lack of inclusion in its diversity policies is the antithesis of what we in NYC want and expect from our corporate partners. These are yet two more reasons why Wal-mart is a poor fit to do business in NYC," said Christine C. Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council.

About the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. To learn more, visit