NEWS RELEASE: Companies Call for an End to Systemic Racism in Public, But Help Perpetuate It Behind Closed Doors


June 17, 2020 


Devon Cruz

Companies Call for an End to Systemic Racism in Public, But Help Perpetuate It Behind Closed Doors

WASHINGTON— Over the past several days, a number of corporations have seized on the outcry following the murder of George Floyd by police to call out the structural racism plaguing the American criminal justice system. However, many of these corporations have funded or are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) which has a documented history of advancing policies that perpetuate the systems these companies now claim to stand against. Publicly decrying this unjust system while not condemning or disavowing ALEC is hypocritical and makes such statements appear insincere. 

“Tearing down the systemic racism that has plagued the United States since its founding is about more than just a social media post” said Diallo Brooks, the Senior Director of Outreach and Public Engagement at People For the American Way. “It requires an honest, thorough and continued commitment to combating racism in whatever form it takes—in the criminal justice system; the housing system; the education system; or the voting system. You cannot claim to fight racism while perpetuating it through back-room self-dealing. These companies can either fight racism or facilitate it. The choice is theirs to make.”

At ALEC, corporations and special interest groups vote as equals with legislators behind closed doors on “model” legislation to change people’s rights. ALEC has spent years pushing policies that have disproportionately harmed black Americans, by making it harder for many black Americans to vote and making it easier for other people to get away with killing black Americans, and more.

For example, in 2005, ALEC endorsed the so-called “Castle Doctrine,” which became known as the “stand your ground law” and which was part of the jury instructions that allowed George Zimmerman to walk free after murdering unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Although ALEC announced in 2012 that this bill was no longer a “model,” it did nothing to get those dangerous laws repealed despite its previous efforts to pass them.   

Similarly, in 2009, ALEC began pushing states to adopt laws to make it harder for Americans to vote through stricter “Voter ID” bills, which has been documented to have a disproportionate impact on black Americans who live in cities and tend to rely on public transportation rather than having driver’s licenses.

ALEC has unstintingly sought to prevent Medicaid expansion in the states, even though black families have lower per capita incomes and are disproportionately harmed by efforts to prevent working families from securing the access to life-saving and life-prolonging health care that such expansions would provide. ALEC has also fought to kill the Affordable Care Act, again without regard to the disproportionate impact of repealing the benefits of that legislative compromise that has saved or extended millions of lives.

And now ALEC is even trying to keep workers from being able to hold accountable corporations that risk their lives for profit if those workers get infected with this deadly disease that has already killed more than 100,000 Americans—including many aides in the nursing home industry—and black Americans have suffered and died from this disease in disproportionate numbers.

“The policies of ALEC have disproportionately harmed black Americans for almost five decades, and corporations that fund ALEC have helped subsidize that agenda,” said Lisa Graves, the Executive Director of True North Research. “Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, and other civil rights groups have detailed ways corporations must do more to advance equality and stand up against racism and police brutality, and I stand with them. As someone who has studied ALEC’s lobbying agenda for years, I hope corporations that are speaking out against structural racism will also reconsider their support for ALEC, which has done immeasurable and disproportionate damage to black lives in America.”

Here are some of the main corporations that have announced public support for the fight against systemic racism, but that have privately supported ALEC: 

AARP; Chevron; Dominion Energy; Eli Lilly; Peabody Energy; Pfizer; State Farm Insurance; UPS; Vistra Energy; Alkermes; Altria; American Electric Power; Anheuser-Busch; Bayer; Boehringer Ingelheim; CenturyLink; FedEx; Koch Industries; UPS; and Vistra Energy.  

We are calling on these companies to cut ties with ALEC, proactively work to repeal the harmful ALEC legislation their funding or alliance with ALEC has aided, and to fully commit to fighting against systemic racism, including the kinds of structural racism that many ALEC policies reflect or reinforce.