retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from an MNB user:

I think you will be interested in the doings of a major Soft Drink company.  You mention Indra Nooyi our CEO, in your report on the Consumer Goods Forum conference and quote her as "conceding that the food industry has a bifurcated challenge - dealing with a global society in which half the population eats too much, and half eats too little, leading to problems of both obesity and starvation".   And she said that these problems require multi-faceted solutions, driven by leaders who act not just as CEOs, but also as parents and citizens."  Pretty cool for a CEO, really.  She is a fascinating speaker and a major personality.

I am glad to hear her speak about these issues, although you hit the nail on the head when you point out that she will be judged on whether she can get kids to eat two bags of chips (Fun for You) or baked chips (Better For You) instead of one.  Or how many "Cherished Associates" she can cut by "synergies" in our merged companies.

We have a mission - Performance With Purpose - that talks about environmental and human sustainability and all kinds of great stuff.  Definitely something an unrepentant commie-hippie-tree-hugging peace creep like me can embrace.  But one of the Performance planks in our mission - "Deliver total shareholder returns in the top quartile of our industry group" threatens all the other stuff.

So, a few days ago, all of us Cherished Associates got a letter from Indra!  Not her usual bi-weekly missive, in which she shares deep personal and philosophical thoughts, but an urgent one.  I thought you might be interested in seeing it:

We need your help!  I’m sure you know that our industry and many of our products are under political attack by politicians who are quick to look for scapegoats for obesity and other complex societal problems.  Many are simply eager just to find new targets to tax.

That’s why I’m writing to ask you to join me in contributing to PepsiCo’s employee political action committee, The Concerned Citizen’s Fund (CCF).  It’s one of the best ways to defend our freedom in the marketplace by helping to elect political leaders who appreciate our products, who care about our business, and who value our good jobs.

In federal and many state political campaigns, corporations are not permitted to make direct contributions to candidates.  However, through political action committees, employees of a company can organize and support candidates for political office.  It is an effective way to have our collective voice heard in Washington, D.C., and in state houses across the country.

I take great pride in the leadership PepsiCo has shown through innovation and investment, providing our customers with a wide selection of fun for you, better for you and good for you choices.  But, this is not enough.  We cannot confine our leadership just to the marketplace.  We need to be a part of the public debate where the rules are set, the policy made, and the taxes, restrictions and penalties are imposed.

In the days to come you will be hearing from others in our leadership team requesting your participation in the Concerned Citizen’s Fund.  I hope you will give this request serious consideration. If every one of us gives something to this effort there’s no doubt we can have a robust political action program and strengthen our collective voice.

Now, let me be clear, all contributions to the PepsiCo Concerned Citizen’s Fund are voluntary.  Absolutely no adverse employment consequences will result from a decision not to participate.  However, I hope you agree with me on how important it is that our voice be heard in this crucial time.

And yesterday, we got an email from the PAC...announcing a raffle!  Support our PAC and enter a sweepstakes to win an iPad..or a trip to Washington D.C (to buy a politician?)!  It directs you to the PAC website to "find out more" about the PAC and the sweepstakes..but, you can't find out about the sweepstakes until you fill in/edit the information in the form (it already knows who you are) and choose "Make a Pledge/Donate" or "I do not choose to participate at this time"  Creepy!  Why does the PAC want me to admit that I'm not going to participate if  "absolutely no adverse employment consequences" will result from my decision?  I am thinking that the candidates who might appeal to this PAC have very little in common with a candidate to whom I would donate!  And this is all perfectly legal and aboveboard.  I've always known about PACs, of course, but it makes my skin crawl to see such a brazen campaign.  I'd be most interested to hear your views!

I may disappoint you on this one.

It makes my skin crawl a little bit, too. I think it is a fact of life in American politics that we get the best politicians that money can buy. Which also means, by the way, that we get the politicians we deserve, because if money can buy them, they’re not worth much.

But your company isn’t doing anything that other companies aren’t doing. They’re playing by the rules - as warped and corrupt as those rules may be. As long as your participation is not mandatory, and your involvement has no impact on your employment status, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

You pick out your own candidates and causes, and give money to the people you believe in. And then try not to be too disappointed when they let you down. Which they almost always will.

I got several interesting emails yesterday about our story regarding the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress in the wake of the Supreme Court’s pro-Walmart decision in a gender discrimination class action suit.

I wrote:

First of all, I thought that we all are constitutionally guaranteed equal rights under the law. At least, that was my impression.

That said, I have a daughter. There’s pretty good evidence out there that whether implicitly or explicitly, at some point in her career she may be taken advantage of, or discriminated against, simply because she is a woman.

If it takes the ERA to make sure that this doesn’t happen to her and all her sisters, I’m okay with it.

Some will say it is unnecessary and redundant. I’d guess I’d argue that since there continues to be discrimination - some of it cultural, some of it official - it can be argued that maybe it is necessary. And things sometimes have to be redundant because there are guys out there who simply don’t get it, who need to have this stuff drilled into their thick skulls.

I vote with - and for - my daughter.

MNB user Ben Ball wrote:

I also have two daughters, both of just graduated college this May. One has landed a great job in Marketing and the other is in “hot pursuit”. Which is simply by way of saying that I completely understand your compassionate wish for their success. My wife is also a professional who had to work her way past the “attentive” bosses while she also worked her way through college as an Office Manager for legal and insurance companies. I get it.

But I also get being what the late, great Lewis Grizzard often referred to as “the last great minority” – Straight Southern White Males.

The fact is that all genders and races experience some level of “discrimination” at random points, whether “direct” or “reverse” is all in the perspective of who is writing the definition.

Re: ERA – you were on the right track the first time. The Constitution is quite explicit in “all men created equal” and I’ll argue to the day I die that this is the non-gender specific use of “men”. It was simply the common language of the time. If we strove to enforce THAT with the same vigor we have pursued “fixes” to that simple statement, we would be further ahead and a lot better off. And we might have avoided an incredibly costly Civil War, race-riots and a number of other nasties.

Anytime we pursue legislation that calls one group out over others, whether for reparations or otherwise, rather than simply stating ‘’you can’t do that because it is discriminatory and the Constitution forbids all manner of discrimination” we get further away from the original intent of “all men created equal” and simply fuel the fires of divisiveness.

Not that I feel strongly on the subject.

I’m okay with a 10-word Constitutional amendment:

“No discrimination against anybody. Ever. For any reason. No exceptions.”

Just to make sure everybody gets it.

Another MNB user wrote:

I couldn’t agree more with your perspective that we are all guaranteed equal rights and it would certainly be redundant to add an amendment to the constitution.  The equal rights amendment wouldn’t inherently change any of the issues that seem to exist, but rather give another (unnecessary) tool to enforce laws that already exist…hence the current lawsuits!

That said, it is also worthwhile to point out a likely unpopular contrarian view.  We all know the facts….women continue to this day to manage a disproportionate share of household responsibility.  And they do so with many households being two income and often with the women being the primary breadwinners.  Yet, our culture is still structured so as when a child is sick or someone needs to be at a school event, Mom is called into service!  What does that mean?  Voluntary absenteeism is far greater with women than men.  Women are often leaving work on time (which some call early) because someone has to pick up the children at day care!  Isn’t this also a gender bias that should be addressed?  How many men would argue that their company would frown on them leaving early or coming in late?  How many men would state that they would like to be able to have that freedom but they fear it would adversely impact their career?

So at the end of the day, what is really the definition of equality?  If the measuring stick is same work for same pay, is it not appropriate to take into consideration that the person shirking some household responsibility and spending an extra 10 hours at the office is “doing more”?  In other words, a complete cultural overhaul is likely needed to accomplish the rather simplistic “closing of the pay gap” argument.  If Costco, one of our industries most socially conscious organizations, is being challenged on gender bias, would it not be a more meaningful opportunity to try to understand and address the factors behind it?

Another MNB user wrote:

Uh... There is a mandatory sign in every break room in our office that pretty much says discrimination is illegal and there are a host of bureaucrats that you can call  if you think you are a victim. It is written by the government so it is pretty much unintelligible, but the gist is that if you are not being evaluated on the merits of your performance, you can sue. Not sure what else is needed. The Walmart case said that they weren’t doing it. I guess we’ll find out about Costco. Yes , discrimination is bad. There are a lot of protections in place to make sure it doesn’t happen. Do we need to refight this battle again?

Finally, I even got criticized on the source of this particular story:

I’m still amazed as smart of writer and intelligent a man as you are you are still quoting the Huffington Post on issues like they are the Times or even the National Enquirer.  Again I compare this to the Limbaugh letter or Perez Hilton.  Ask the Huffington Post when they didn’t even pay their writers’ if any of them were women and, where is the constitutional mandate to pay them?

Hey, two days ago I quoted Fox News.

I read a lot of stuff. I try to spread around the sourcing best I can. Just as I try to spend a little time each day listening to either Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell, and Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity. I like to think of it as broadening my education, and not only paying attention to the people with whom I agree.
KC's View: