Boycott Snapshot: Grab Your Wallet Sees Incremental Movement on SoulCycle, Shell Oil, Wendy’s, Coors, HSN; Updates Its Calls to Action

Image: Doug Chayka from this June 2017 NYT Piece

Since the arrival of the global coronavirus pandemic as well as the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, Grab Your Wallet Alliance has seen traffic to its public boycott list rise dramatically.

If past is prologue, anytime traffic to the list increases, it means the companies on the list are likely hearing direct feedback from far more people about their ongoing ties to the Trump administration. As a result of that increased pressure, we believe, the Alliance has started to hear directly from several of the companies on the boycott list.

Below is a summary of the contact we’ve had with companies over the last few weeks. Since October 2016 when the boycott launched, over 70 companies have been dropped from the boycott list, largely because they decided to stop carrying the Trump brand.

Thank you to everyone who continues to contact the 46 remaining boycotted on the GYW boycott list. Way to take it to their doorsteps!

SoulCycle Redux

On June 5, 2020, a spokesperson for Equinox and SoulCycle reached out to Grab Your Wallet Alliance to clarify the role of Related Companies’ billionaire chairman Stephen M. Ross and ask that the wording regarding his role be updated/clarified on the Grab Your Wallet public spreadsheet.

Later that day, Grab Your Wallet adjusted its description Ross’ role on our public spreadsheet and let Related Companies spokesperson know we’d done so via its spokesperson, Samantha Bonizzi (samanthab@derris.com). Our adjustments were made not based on the wording suggested by Ms. Bonizzi, but rather to reflect the way Stephen M. Ross’ role is described in this August 2019 New York Times piece by David Yaffe-Bellany.

As you may recall, last summer Stephen M. Ross held a $100k per ticket fundraiser in support of reelecting Donald Trump. Related Companies’ principal investors own majority stakes in SoulCycle and Equinox.

A request by a company to adjust the wording of its chairman’s role could be interpreted to mean that Related’s other principle investors are attempting to distance themselves from Stephen M. Ross. It could also mean something else entirely. It could be a not-so-subtle attempt, for instance, to signal to Grab Your Wallet Alliance that Related’s attorneys have their eyes on this one. Typically with boycotts, any movement is good movement, even a request for a minor adjustment in phrasing.

Why? Movement often precedes action. It tells us we may have some leverage with Related Companies that we don’t have elsewhere. It tells us: we’re on their minds. In their heads. If a company is reaching out to Grab Your Wallet (versus the other way around) that’s typically an indication the company is hearing from the public and feeling some heat.

When we spoke to Related Companies, the company also asked the Alliance if we’d be able to remove Related Companies and its family of brands from the boycott list. We declined. Grab Your Wallet participants generally want to ensure their hard earned money never finds its way into the pockets of wealthy Trump supporters like Stephen M. Ross. So, as long as Ross continues to financially benefit from Related Companies’ suite of brands (SoulCycle, Equinox, etc.), those companies will remain on the boycott list.

We sincerely hope we’re able to remove Related’s suite of brands from the boycott list soon as a result of Related Companies finding a way to divest itself of its Trump-supporting chairman, Stephen M. Ross.

A Fresh Round of Outreach

In recent weeks, Grab Your Wallet Alliance has also stepped up its efforts to reach out to the 46 remaining companies on the boycott list.

Grab Your Wallet Alliance has been reaching out to boycotted companies again for two primary reasons. The first is simply to reestablish contact with the correct corporate spokespeople and ask if the wealthy Trump supporters among their leadership teams—Nelson Peltz of Wendy’s and Procter and Gamble, Linda Bean of L.L. Bean, Ron Lauder of Estée Lauder — are all still highly paid senior executives at their respective organizations.

The other reason we’ve been reaching out to the remaining companies again is to let them know that in response to the Trump administration’s recent glorification of violence against U.S. citizens and in particular the Black community, #GrabYourWallet Alliance has updated its corporate calls to action to fire the senior executives who funded Trump’s political rise.

Up until recently, the call to action to many of the companies was simply to issue a statement saying its highest paid executives would refrain from donating to Trump-related reelection efforts in the 2020 cycle. (They also had the option of saying “any presidential candidate.”) Yuengling Brewery is an example of a company that made exactly such a statement to Grab Your Wallet during this period, at which point it was removed from the boycott list.

Now, the call to action to companies that remain on the boycott list has, in many cases, changed. Now, in order to be removed from the #GrabYourWallet boycott list, any company with a wealthy Trump supporter(s) at the senior executive level (board or C-suite level) would need to indicate that it no longer employs that executive.

With a mismanaged pandemic that disproportionally impacts the black community in the U.S. as well as an ongoing epidemic of police violence against that community, the GYWA asserts companies are morally obligated to rid themselves entirely of the millionaires and billionaires who funded Trump’s political rise—a rise that has resulted in an oppositional, racist, and deeply authoritarian attitude toward communities of color in the U.S.

Trump Is Wendy’s Kind of People

On June 15, 2020 a spokesperson from Wendy’s fast food chain stated to GYWA volunteer and #Baycott veteran Liz Rose, “Wendy’s Company does not contribute to presidential campaigns.”

Wendy’s billionaire chairman, Nelson Peltz, held a $10 million dollar fundraiser for Trump in February of this year. Peltz, of course, is not synonymous with the company itself, but it’s likely his Wendy’s-generated wealth allows him to support an extremist like Trump at high levels. The only way for Wendy’s to get off the #GrabYourWallet boycott list, therefore, is to fire Nelson Peltz. Peltz is also a Procter & Gamble board member.

The call to action to P&G is the same: fire Peltz.

Shell Oil’s Embrace of Trump

In September 2019, Shell Oil took a page from the authoritarian playbook by requiring its workforce to attend an onsite Trump political rally. Since then, the alliance’s call to action has been for Shell to make a public statement that it will not engage in such tactics again.

On June 15, 2020, a Shell Oil spokesperson let GYWA know that as “a matter of company policy, Shell does not make political contributions to candidates.” (Again, GYWA volunteer and #Baycott veteran Liz Rose uncovered this one.)

This statement doesn’t address the matter of the rally the company staged, so it doesn’t go far enough. Since Shell has not taken the recommended call to action by GYWA, Shell will remain on the #GrabYourWallet boycott list. If it continues to refrain from making such a statement prior to October 11, 2020, Shell will remain permanently on the #GrabYourWallet boycott list.

Trump’s Inaugural Donors Added

For nearly four years, the companies that donated to Trump’s 2017 inaugural celebration were confined to the “on our radar” section of the site versus the official boycott portion of the list. That recently changed.

With hate crimes hitting a 16 year high and the lynching of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery by police and ex-police officers, the #GrabYourWallet Alliance now considers any company empowering the Trump administration in any way, including celebrating it via inauguration festivities, appropriate to boycott. Such companies include Charles Schwab, Coca Cola, and Bank of America / Meryl Lynch.

In fact, companies may now be added to the main boycott portion of the list for celebrating the Trump administration in any way (via inauguration donations, for example), creating photo opportunities with and for the Trump administration (as with the recent Ford and LVMH photo opps), taking the Trump administration on a tour of its facilities, co-creating programs with Team Trump (yes even jobs programs, Tim Cook), and/or offering consulting to the Trump administration.

For companies that donated to Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016/2017, in order to be removed from the #GrabYourWallet boycott list, the call to action is to issue a short statement that the company plans to refrain from donating to Trump’s inaugural committee in 2020 should he win a second term. These companies also have the option of stating they plan to refrain from donating to the inaugural committee of any candidate in 2020/2021. They do not have to specifically name Trump.

Coors and HSN Updates

Two other minor updates: we recently learned that after an abrupt and oddly quiet exodus from Denver, Colorado, Trump booster Pete Coors retired from Molson Coors in 2019 as its chief customer relations officer. He is still, however, vice chairman of the company’s board, so Molson Coors likely cannot be removed from the Grab Your Wallet boycott list at this time. (Board members are paid on average $200,00 per year in the U.S. At a large company like Molson Coors, that figure can reach into the millions.) We’ve reached out to Molson Coors to confirm Pete’s status w/ the company.

Finally, we recently noticed that commemorative products like Trump coins have disappeared from the HSN website, which may mean HSN can perhaps be removed from the GYW boycott list. We’ve reached out to HSN to confirm. In one past case , a retailer called Build.com actually continued to sell Trump products, but hid them from search results on its site to avoid controversy associated with the administration. We therefore just want to be sure Trump products are truly gone from HSN’s inventory before removing them.

Possible Permanent Adds Soon

It should be noted here that the #GrabYourWallet community is comprised not only of consumers, but a great many business owners as well. So in addition being cut off from our consumer dollars, the #GrabYourWallet community may continue to make ongoing B2B referrals away from any company that remains on the boycott portion of the list, i.e. business packaging manufacturer ULINE, which has prominent billionaire Trump backers Liz and Dick Uihlein at the helm.

Again, companies that fail to take Grab Your Wallet’s recommended action by October 11, 2020—the four year anniversary of the launch of the #GrabYourWallet boycott—will remain permanently on the boycott list.

Previously, Grab Your Wallet has endeavored to work closely and in earnest with companies to get them off the list. In some cases, we even wrote statements for the companies in question to facilitate their removal.

Our patience, however, is at an end. The fair minded, big hearted people of the world reject the economic empowerment of racism, extremism, and fascism by overpaid corporate magnates, largely insulated from the profound negative impact of their actions by privilege. The people who voted against Trump in 2016 generate more than two thirds of the nation’s economic activity and are directly responsible for the near total demise of the Trump retail brand over the last four years.

We will not fail to note which side of history your company chose. We will not fail to note the gap between talk and walk. If your company pays exorbitant salaries to the very people who funded and fueled Trump’s political rise, it is partially responsible for the harm Trump has inflicted on America and particularly on traditionally marginalized people.

Employing a major Trump supporter at your company runs the risk, therefore, of consumers, workers, and business owners permanently shunning your company and its leaders for generations. It’s a stain that will not wash out.

The #GrabYourWallet boycott list launched in October of 2016. Since then over 70 companies have been dropped from the boycott portion of the list. To see which companies remain on the list and which have been dropped, visit our always-up-to-date public spreadsheet. Dropped companies are listed on the “Dropped” tab of the spreadsheet.

President of Grab Your Wallet Alliance, a non-profit that helps people flex their economic power in ways that promote an equitable, democratic society.