How To Turn Around Goodyear’s Very Bad Week? Viewpoint Equality

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Posted: Aug 28, 2020 12:09 PM
How To Turn Around Goodyear’s Very Bad Week? Viewpoint Equality

Source: AP Photo/Noah Berger

Goodyear followed discrimination against employees with lies and evasions last week, before finally making a quasi-apology and halting retreat. Market and public reaction was swift and deep. The company will soon learn that it must do more. 

Only real, enforceable guarantees that Goodyear will not discriminate against its employees because of their views seem fit to end this controversy and allow the company to retain the vast swathe of disaffected customers who now look set quietly to buy their tires elsewhere.

Maybe you heard about Goodyear’s miserable week. It started in stupid. Though the tire industry is not generally noted for its unique appeal to the performatively woke, Goodyear ran employee training sessions in which it made insupportable distinctions: Black Lives Matters (BLM) and gay pride “attire” was now fully acceptable, while Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter or MAGA gear was forbidden under a “zero-tolerance policy.” Presumably this meant that showing up in a BLM t-shirt was fine, but daring the same support for blue lives (i.e., the police) was grounds for immediate firing. One employee (who deserves a medal) took a picture of a slide detailing these distinctions and made it public.

Goodyear’s first response was mendacity. It issued a statement crawling with weasel words, claiming that the slide was not part of its corporate training and that “we have the utmost appreciation for the vital work police do on behalf of our shared communities.” But the company still defended exemptions from its general no-politics policy for “advocacy… of racial justice and equity issues.”  

This modified limited hangout (in the exquisitely relevant parlance of those stainless bastions of propriety and undeceit, the Watergate Boys) was soon obsolete. It turned out that the whistleblower had audio too, revealing that not only was Goodyear actively discriminating on the basis of political participation and viewpoint, but that it was doing so on genuinely insane grounds.

In the released audio, the employee trainer explained:

Some people may wish to express their views on social justice or inequity or equity issues such as black lives matter or LGBTQ pride on their face coverings, shirts or wristbands. That will be deemed approved because it [com]plies with a zero-tolerance stance. However if any associate wears all, blue, white lives matter shirts or face coverings, that will be not appropriate.

Parsing this out, the company seems to have determined that BLM, and everything that the organization and its leaders endorse, is neutral and to be celebrated, because it relates to “social justice or inequity or equity,” while other opinions and positions – either opposing or simply incongruous – are so inflammatory as to require immediate dismissal.

Having been caught endorsing a policy even as it pretended to distance itself from it, Goodyear came back with something a little closer to an actual apology. The second attempt either clarified or altered the original policy. (The Topeka, Kansas trainer who had initially been hung out to dry certainly appears to have undertaken a good-faith interpretation of the corporate policy Goodyear had declared.) This time Goodyear CEO Rich Kramer was wheeled out to explain that henceforth support for the police, presumably including sporting Blue Lives Matter gear, will not get Goodyear employees fired.

Some progress, but still not anything like enough. In fact, it still aggressively misses the point.

BLM and its leaders endorse positions that not only do not support “racial justice” or “anti-racism,” but dredge up some of the ugliest and most dangerous racist tropes of all time. The doctrines of white privilege and white guilt reintroduce appalling notions of intergenerational, irremediable, permanent racial evil of the execrable “the Jews killed Jesus” sort that have polluted so much of history to such horrifying effect. Cash reparations on racial grounds for long-past wrongs raise the specter of one race working for the direct material benefit of another race – something that one would think that real anti-racists would oppose.

There are, obviously, other takes on these theories.   But there is no way to declare BLM’s and its allies’ undeniably race-based and race-ranking theories to be inarguably neutral, beneficent policies so definitely in clear-eyed pursuit of “justice” that they transcend politics.

What Goodyear must do now is to write real, enforceable viewpoint-discrimination protections into its employee hiring and retention policies. It must treat all employees, and all ideas that any of those employees espouse, equally. This doesn’t mean that it must make Goodyear a political and philosophical free-for-all. It could ban all expressive garb. Or, for all employees and all of their ideas, it could ban anything connected with candidates, parties and campaigns, but allow expression in support of ideas (which would include support for Black, Blue and All Lives Matter, and all sorts of other philosophical expressions) on an equal footing. There is a long spectrum of possibilities, so long as Goodyear makes no distinction between employees of different viewpoints.

Goodyear had better act quickly, clearly, and loudly, though. It is particularly vulnerable to getting crushed by its ongoing discrimination and mendacity, as the markets realized almost immediately. Tires are a commodity; some are better than others, but there are substitutes for Goodyear tires of equal quality at comparable price. And, as noted above, the average tire buyer is not likely to think fondly of Goodyear’s straight-up discrimination. It won’t take a noisy boycott for Goodyear to suffer permanent serious damage. Memory, and the quiet decision by many millions of Americans to buy something – anything – else the next time their tires fail the penny test, will be enough.

Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Deputy Director of its Free Enterprise Project.