December 1, 2022

Should Workers Be Fired for Legal Political Activity Outside of Work?

Leading Free Market Group Asks Dozens of Major American Companies to Protect Workers’ Right to Freely Engage in Political and Civic Activities

National Center for Public Policy Research’s Employee Conscience Protection Project Warns: Millions of Americans Potentially Subject to Workplace Discipline for Private Political Actions and Beliefs

In Response, Credit Card Leader Visa Takes Steps to Protect Its Workforce From Political Discrimination While Wholesale Giant Costco Resists Employee Protections

Washington, DC – Revealing the first results of nine months of behind-the-scenes corporate activism to protect American workers from political discrimination in the workplace, on back-to-back days last week the National Center for Public Policy Research spoke at the shareholder meetings of Visa Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corporation, praising the former for amending its corporate documents to protect its employees from potential workplace discrimination over political actions and beliefs while criticizing the latter for refusing to do the same.

Visa and Costco’s divergent actions came as the result of shareholder resolutions the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project submitted to each company late last year.

“Visa very quickly realized the merits in our proposal and changed its corporate policies to ensure its workforce that its private political actions would have no bearing on their employment with the company. It is a tribute to superb management that realizes hiring and retaining the best workers involves protecting those workers’ First Amendment rights,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Unfortunately, Costco, which employs more than 195,000 people worldwide, does not share those same values.”

Costco went so far as to petition the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the right to omit the National Center’s shareholder proposal from its proxy statement.

At Visa’s shareholder meeting last Wednesday in Foster City, California, Danhof stated, “When we asked Visa if it would consider protecting its employees’ private political and civic activities, the company did not hesitate to amend its corporate policies to do just that. Many major American corporations have resisted such a protection, but Visa employees should feel proud to work at a company whose leadership realizes the importance of employee freedoms.”

Conversely, at the annual meeting of Costco shareholders that took place in Bellevue, Washington last Thursday, Danhof asked, in part, “America was founded on the ideal of a representative government that derives its power from the consent of the governed. In a nation with anemic civic activity participation and low voter turnout, it is disappointing that one of the country’s largest retailers would fight to maintain the ability to terminate its employees for private political activity. My question is this: why did Costco’s leadership fight to maintain “managerial discretion” over the private political and civic activities of the company’s employees?”

In his question, Danhof also quoted directly from the arguments that Costco made in front of the S.E.C. as to why it should have been permitted to exclude the National Center’s shareholder resolution. Specifically, Danhof noted, “Costco fought to exclude our proposal in front of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Costco’s legal team argued that ‘[t]he company must have the ability to exercise managerial discretion over its workforce with respect to these issues” and that the “considerations that arise under these policies… are most appropriately handled by management, not by shareholders as a group.'”

To read the full legal exchanges between the National Center and Costco regarding exclusion of the shareholder proposal, click here and here.

“The company’s answer to my question at the shareholder meeting was almost as disappointing as the extreme lengths that it took in order to deprive Costco’s shareholders of the ability to vote on our proposal,” said Danhof. “Costco Chairman Jeffrey H. Brotman became indignant when I asked my question. He told me that ‘we’ (which I took to mean the company’s leaders) would protect Costco’s workers and that the company’s employees were free to do whatever they want on their own time. He said that Costco fought our proposal to protect the company employees from people like me. Then he backtracked and said, not exactly people like me but rather the company fought our proposal to protect the company from outsiders. From that I understood Brotman to mean that management should have ultimate control of Costco’s workforce and that the shareholders were the outsiders. That is backwards thinking.”

“Costco’s shareholders – who are the true owners of the company – should have been given the right to vote on whether the company will act as a partisan purity shop in which the staff must follow the dictates of management in their private political thoughts and endeavors,” said Danhof. “Brotman’s assertions that management should control these personal aspects and would protect its workers are vapid. The company employs more than 195,000 individuals. The chairman of the board and the CEO can’t possibly oversee and ‘protect’ each individual employee from this type of discrimination. But guess what could? The policy that we urged in our shareholder proposal, that’s what.”

“If I were a Costco employee, I would be very concerned that my management team, which is directed by some well-known extreme liberal partisans, refused to add policy protections for private political activities. Conservative employees should especially be concerned,” added Danhof.

For the better part of a year, the National Center has been asking corporations to implement policy protections shielding workers from adverse employment action for engaging in private political and civic pursuits. Through its Employee Conscience Projection Project, the National Center has helped protect hundreds of thousands of workers from potential workplace discipline or termination.

The genesis for the Employee Conscience Protection Project occurred in April 2014 when the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job simply because he had donated to a 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, Mr. Eich is not uniquely situated. Only about half of American workers live in a jurisdiction that provides statutory protection against employer retaliation for engaging in First Amendment activities. And some of these laws are weaker than others. Furthermore, many corporations do not offer this protection as a condition of employment.

“In researching workplace protections, one company that stood out was Coca-Cola,” said Danhof. “The soft drink giant’s Code of Business Conduct explicitly makes clear to its employees that ‘[y]our job will not be affected by your personal political views or your choice in political contributions.’ This simple measure speaks volumes in light of the fact that many American corporations refuse to offer this type of policy.”

Often using Coca-Cola’s policy as a model, last spring and into the summer, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project spoke directly with over a dozen CEOs about adding this commonsense employment protection. In addition to protecting employees from retribution for their outside-of-work legal political actions, National Center staffers suggested that corporations also protect civic and public policy engagement. Aside from Google, where CEO Eric Schmidt was steadfast in his assurance that Google employees would receive this full protection, no other company explicitly vowed to enact these measures.

To confront this void, the National Center submitted shareholder proposals to more than two dozen corporations for inclusion in their respective 2015 proxy statements. Some companies, such as Visa, realized the wisdom of these protections and agreed to adopt the proposal. Others, such as Costco, spent significant time and company resources petitioning the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for the right to omit our proposal from their proxy statements.

In the coming weeks and months, the National Center will reveal which companies protect their employees from political discrimination and which companies fought to retain the right to discipline its workforce for private First Amendment activities. Stay tuned.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market corporate activist group. In 2014, Free Enterprise Project representatives participated in 52 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers rights and many other important public policy issues.

The Visa and Costco meetings mark the first and second shareholder meetings for the National Center in 2015.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non- partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


Costco to Sell “The Real Wolf” in Montana and Idaho

From Ted Lyon, coauthor of “The Real Wolf”:

Costco Wholesale Corporation has ordered The Real Wolf for their warehouses located in the states of Montana and Idaho. This is great news as Costco sells more books in their stores than any other wholesale chain. The book has ONLY one week to perform in Costco’s warehouses. If sales do not meet Costco’s expectations they will be pulled and returned to the publisher. The books are scheduled to arrive in their warehouses this weekend. If you know anyone who has not picked up their copy of The Real Wolf and lives in the area, please let them know that Costco should have the book in stock next week, the week of July 21. Below I have provided the addresses and phone numbers of the 10 Costco warehouses in Montana and Idaho:


2290 King Avenue West
Billings, MT 59102
(406) 652-8765

2505 Catron Street
Bozeman, MT 59718
(406) 585-0383

2195 E. Custer Avenue
Helena, MT 59602
(406) 495-7040

2330 US Highway 93 N
Kalispell, MT 59901
(406) 758-2500

3220 Northern Pacific Avenue 59808-1338
(406) 543-6445


2051 S. Cole Road
Boise, ID
(208) 321-8703

355 East Neider Avenue
Coeur d’Alene, ID
(208) 676-7350

16700 N. Marketplace Blvd.
Nampa, ID 83687
(208) 465-3810

305 West Quinn Road
Pocatello, ID 83201
(208) 238-4040

731 Pole Line Road
Twin Falls, ID 83301
(208) 736-1550


Shareholder Activists Repeat Call for Big Box Giant Costco to Reconsider Controversial Membership in Trade Association

Shareholder Activists Repeat Call for Big Box Giant Costco to Reconsider Controversial Membership in Trade Association Promoting Risky Sustainability Goals over Shareholder Value

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek – Previously Unaware of His Company’s Dealing with the Radical Environmentalists – Has Not Commented in More than Eight Months Since the National Center for Public Policy Research Asked Him About Trade Association’s Progressive Agenda

Issaquah, WA / Washington, DC – For a second time, Costco CEO Craig Jelinek is being called out by the National Center for Public Policy Research to reconsider the big box chain’s membership in a divisive retail trade association working to advance top-down sustainability measures that could distort the retail marketplace and compromise the company’s profitability.

“Costco is one of America’s largest retailers, and as such, carries considerable clout. So it is disconcerting this company remains in league on sustainability issues with the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) – a massive trade association that has been promoting sustainability mandates at the expense of American consumers,” said Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “Craig Jelinek ought to assure investors and consumers that he is placing sound business methods ahead of RILA’s radical environmental ideology.”

In January, at Costco’s annual meeting of shareholders, Danhof asked Jelinek, in part:

As a shareholder, our concern is that this push for so-called “sustainability” will harm Costco’s shareholders, suppliers, and customers, as they will bear the cost of these self- imposed green regulations.

A recent poll that my organization conducted indicated that 52 percent of consumers, given a choice, are unwilling to pay even an extra cent for such sustainability. Furthermore, 56 percent of consumers think it is unfair to ask them to pay more so that retails can impose sustainability standards.

So Mr. Jelinek, I ask you whether Costco will reject RILA initiatives on “sustainable” activities that have the potential to reduce the company’s bottom line. And if your answer is no, do you think it is fair to charge low and middle-income Americans – many of whom are on very tight budgets – more for products because Costco and other retailers want to green-wash their images?

Danhof’s full question is available here.

Jelinek responded that he was unaware that Costco was even a RILA member. Furthermore, he refused to answer Danhof as to whether Costco’s leadership would reject any of RILA’s green initiatives should they be found to harm the company’s shareholders or bottom line. This should have been an easy question for Jelinek to address.

“Jelinek has had more than eight months to educate himself about RILA and its progressive sustainability platform,” noted Danhof. “It is time that he answer to his customers and shareholders by eschewing RILA’s costly proposals. Our poll on retail spending clearly shows that American shoppers want no part of RILA’s green morass.”

If Jelinek still needs more information about RILA’s green goals, he and other RILA member company CEOs should read, “The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA): A Cartel that Threatens Innovation and Competitiveness,” a new paper by National Center Senior Fellow Dr. Bonner Cohen.

In his groundbreaking paper, Dr. Cohen notes that:

Redirecting retailers’ behavior so as to achieve these environmental and social goals will often require “expertise not yet available within an organization.” Forging a path forward will have retailers reach out to “nonprofits, academics, and governments, as well as to their suppliers, consumers, investors, vendors, and communities.” RILA assures us that these “stakeholders” will provide “diverse perspectives that will accelerate sustainable innovation.” Note that RILA puts nonprofits (shorthand for environmental and other approved pressure groups), academics, and governments ahead of consumers, investors, and suppliers as sources of the “expertise” it believes retailers need.

“Costco has an opportunity to take a leadership position by rejecting the wayward path of RILA that Dr. Cohen describes,” said Danhof. “If left on its own, the free market would dictate sustainable measures such as reducing packaging and improving shipping routes that also reduce company costs. Jelinek should vow to only follow free market sustainable reforms and reject RILA’s top-down approach.”

Starting in early 2012, National Center staffers confronted the CEOs of five major retailers, who are all members of RILA – Target, J.C. Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap and CVS Caremark – about their engagement with RILA. Through its Free Enterprise Project, the National Center demanded these corporate leaders explain how RILA’s goals are consistent with their fiduciary duties to increase shareholder value, and explained how they could adversely affect customers.

And the retail industry took notice. Prominent retail writer Joan Verdon wrote an article detailing the National Center’s work to expose RILA that appeared in more than a dozen major publications nationwide including Bloomberg Businessweek, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

In early 2013, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project continued to pressure RILA members regarding their complicity with RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Through the shareholder resolution process, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. had conversations with top executives at Best Buy and received assurances that the company would not pursue any RILA initiatives that, in their view, contradict best business practices dictated by the free market.

Also in early 2013, Danhof asked Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson how much more a consumer should have to pay for retail products so that RILA members can push so-called sustainable goods. Totally flustered and baffled by the very simple question, Wasson became incoherent and was unable to answer or defend his company’s sustainability practices in any meaningful way. Writing for the Motley Fool , Gene Koprowski praised Danhof’s question at the Walgreens meeting, and warned would-be company investors saying: “I agree that that is an excellent question to ask, and suggest that investors refrain from buying shares of Walgreens until CEO Greg Wasson can provide a solid answer to the query.”

Just last week, the National Center again called on Wasson to come clean about Walgreens dealings with RILA. So far, Wasson remains silent.

In the first half of 2013, the National Center also confronted the CEOs of Sears and Home Depot, educating them about RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Following the Home Depot meeting, National Center President David Ridenour privately discussed the issue of RILA’s new monopoly with company CEO Francis Blake and other top executives. They assured Ridenour that the company does not always agree with RILA and would not pursue an initiative that would harm customers or the bottom line in the name of going green.

At the Sears meeting, newly installed CEO Edward Lambert appeared to reject any extra-regulatory mechanism of RILA saying in part that “[p]ersonally, I don’t like coercive solutions. I think America is overregulated.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than 4 percent from foundations, and less than 2 percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.