When the National Organization for Marriage launched its failed boycott efforts against Starbucks and General Mills, at least those campaigns were for a very specific reason. Both of those companies had just announced corporate support for marriage equality, and NOM responded. Responded in a hysterically off-base and ineffectual manner, sure, but responded nonetheless.
This week, however, NOM announced a boycott that is based on nothing more than conjecture, innuendo, and assumption—all around a situation that, even on its face, is in no way offensive or boycott-worthy. Let's examine.
The company in question is JP Morgan Chase. That company, like countless other American companies, issue a biannual employee opinion survey. According to the company itself, this effort "allows employees to provide feedback on a broad range of issues, and managers use the results of this survey, in combination with other feedback, to continually improve the workplace and employee experience." It is nothing more than an internal gauge of demographics, morale, best practices, etc. It's standard business practice.
It is also voluntary. Apparently quite a few employees choose to take it, since the company proudly touted that "[a] record 88% of employees participated in our 2012 employee opinion survey, and 76% of respondents said they are satisfied with the company." But since that number is not 100%, and since the company saw this opt-in participation as something to brag about, it is clear that the survey is optional.
It is also confidential. Yes, of course employees have to log in to take it, since otherwise any Joe or Jane Schmo could enter into the pool. However, the company has made it perfectly clear that the answers are confidential. In addition to CEO Jamie Dimon saying, point blank, that "the survey takes 10 minutes to complete and individual responses are confidential; only aggregated results at the group level will be reported," two separate corporate spokespeople have given statements to the conservative media insisting that the survey is “completely voluntary and anonymous.” Also, a 2009 report from Out & Equal quotes the company as including the following introduction language on its past surveys:
Feedback from employees tells us that it is important to address diversity in the broadest sense, beyond race and gender. One way to achieve this is to better understand those aspects of diversity that are not immediately obvious. With this in mind, please check off any of the following categories that you want to include in your responses. Your answers are voluntary, confidential and will be used ONLY to understand and address issues that may exist in our business. – J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
That language is pretty clear, as are the multiple employee comments I relayed above. Considering this is a multi-trillion dollar company, and considering that its own company code of conduct includes lengthy instructions about confidentiality and its importance in the eyes of both law and ethics, I'm pretty certain that they would not lie to the public about this. That could have a repercussion or two.
So to reiterate what we know, for a fact: A major American corporation conducts a voluntary internal survey on any number of topics so that they can better their work environment, and then the company goes on record to reiterate that the whole thing is confidential. Keep those facts in mind; what you are about to read is a mess of noise deliberately designed to make you believe a politically-motivated fiction.
From the anti-LGBT NOM:
Dear Marriage Supporter,
This is the smoking gun. NOM has obtained new evidence that shows Chase bank not only violated its employees' privacy with invasive and inappropriate questions on an employee survey aimed at pushing an LGBT agenda, but that the company has lied to consumers and its own employees about the now infamous questions.
Today, NOM is launching an international petition and boycott at www.VoidChase.com to send the message that this kind of invasiveness and dishonesty is unacceptable and will not go unchallenged. I urge you to read on to get the facts for yourself, and then head over to www.VoidChase.com to join this important effort.
The news about this survey has already been reported far and wide. But after NOM called on our members to contact Chase and demand answers about the invasive question to employees about whether they were "allies of the LGBT community"—and answers about how this information was to be used—the bank's leadership went on defense.
Several of you forwarded me responses received from Patricia A. Wexler, a Chase spokesperson, who said that, "The news report is not correct. These surveys are anonymous and voluntary." Another Chase spokesperson, Jaclyn D'Aversa, reiterated to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal that the survey was "completely voluntary and anonymous."
On March 18, 2014, Chase CEO Jamie Dimon sent an email announcing the annual survey to all employees. Here Dimon says that "the survey takes 10 minutes to complete and individual responses are confidential; only aggregated results at the group level will be reported"
This email was provided by a Chase employee. We also have a screenshot of another internal employee communication, the "Daily Bulletin" of March 30, 2014. Here, we see all employees being urged to "log in and complete the 10-minute survey"
A Chase employee confirms that this 'log in' means exactly what one would think: "employees were required to identify themselves with their employee Standard ID Number prior to taking the survey"
This is not "anonymous." Even Jamie Dimon, in announcing the survey to employees, did not choose that word, but said results would be treated confidentially—which is a very different thing. The fact is that the data from each respondent was tied to his or her unique Employee ID number, and Chase was simply asking its employees to trust that that information would not be misused. Given the track record of bullying and intimidation we've seen in the pushing of the LGBT agenda, it is understandable that employees would be uneasy with this line of questioning.
Another internal message to Chase staff, this time from Pablo Sanchez, JPMorgan Chase's National Director of Consumer Banking, is important for two reasons. In the email—dated April 8, 2014—Sanches [sic] urges participation in the survey, and dedicates a one line paragraph to claiming: "[Y]es, your individual responses are anonymous. I stake my reputation on that"
This shows us two things. First of all, it shows between late March and early April, there seems to have been some blowback and concern within the Chase community about the offensive question about being "an ally of the LGBT community" and about the answers being tied to the employees' unique ID numbers. Sanchez is the first to claim that the answers are "anonymous"—a lie that has now been repeated by spokespersons for the company after the fact. But he obviously knew this was a hard line to sell, adding dramatically that he 'staked his reputation' on it. But Sanchez's assurance simply does not line up with the facts. He knew that there is a way to gather data anonymously—and that tying data to each individual's unique identification number is not within the normal definition of "anonymity."
Here is the second thing Sanchez's email tells us: the survey was hardly "voluntary." And this gets back to what Chase spokespeople have claimed in the face of protests: they also claimed that, in addition to being anonymous, the survey was "completely voluntary."
Anyone who has worked in a corporate structure knows how that line goes: how many "mandatory voluntary" exercises comprise a corporate employee's life at work?
The Sanchez email here represents the second high-ranking official "urging" participation in the survey—and this doesn't count the "Daily Bulletin" from March 30th. Furthermore, these are just the emails to which NOM has gained access. How much more "urging" was done at Chase to "encourage participation" in this "completely voluntary" exercise?
One Chase employee's anecdotal account sheds some useful light on this question, as well. The employee writes:
There was a big push to make sure that all employees completed the survey. About a week before the survey all employees received an email from CEO Jamie Dimon stressing the importance of completing the survey. Then, all employees in my department received an email from the head of our department emphasizing the importance of 100% participation in the survey....This was followed up by my immediate supervisor confirming with me and all my co-workers to make sure that we took the survey. So, no, this was not voluntary...
Time to Make a Withdrawal
The facts are clear:
Chase pressured its employees to participate in a survey that asked offensively invasive questions pushing an LGBT agenda, and it [sic] doubtful whether they felt it to be truly "voluntary."
Individual responses were tied to each employee's unique identification number, which was required as part of the survey, so it can hardly be called "anonymous".
Chase has subsequently lied and obfuscated by means of corporate double-speak and euphemism, insulting and misleading consumers and employees alike.
... which is why I am calling on each of you to join me in boycotting Chase until they issue a formal apology and pledge never again to invade their employees' privacy in this way! Join the movement right now—click here to visit www.VoidChase.com.
FULL: Boycott Chase Bank [NOM]
So much B.S. that it's difficult to know where to begin. But let's try.
For one, NOM is fully dismissing what no less than four higher-ups with the company are saying about the survey being voluntary and anonymous. NOM has absolutely no proof that these corporate spokespeople are lying, yet in three different portions of the above missive, NOM (in words attributed to president Brian Brown) takes it upon itself to brand these company spokespeople as liars. That's because NOM always knows better than everyone else, in case you didn't get that memo.
Also, because employees had to log in with their employee IDs in order to take a survey that is fully tied to their employment, NOM is again taking it upon itself to say that this is "proof" that the thing is not really anonymous or confidential. NOM has no basis for saying this, and in fact, they are inching toward libel with both this claim and the one I just mentioned. These are not matters of opinion; this survey either is voluntary and confidential or it's not. You can't just go around printing that people are lying because you want them to be!
Then because the company said it was striving for 100% participation in the suvey (because duh), NOM twists that rally cry to mean that the employees were pretty much forced to participate. I mean, what? Really?! I know NOM has never been too keen of letting reality guide their words, but this whole thing is just crazy! Truly.
But the thing is, even without these practical facts that bely NOM's stunning reliance on hearsay and conjecture and possibly defamatory character assassinations, NOM's initial premise is remarkably broken to begin with. I mean, the whole reason they are engaged in this baseless and bumbling bout of rookie detective work is because one of the survey questions asked employees if they were either "a member of the LGBT community" or "an ally of the LGBT community, but not personally identifying as LGBT." That's it. That was the big "crime" here. NOM took these questions, which were coupled right next to questions about disabilities and likely meant for no other purpose than to compile diversity data, and turned them into some sort of corporate witch hunt that was meant to root out anti-LGBT employees. Without any evidence whatsoever (detecting a theme here?), NOM and its allies in the conservative media crafted a scenario out of whole cloth. That's a big reason why NOM's fact-finding mission is so shockingly convoluted: because the very setup itself is built on a non-story.
And to proceed to turn this non-story into a full blown boycott?! That's not normal behavior. A boycott is not the kind of tool a political organization wields lightly. Usually a company has to do something really bad, in the political group's eyes, to merit this kind of call to action. If an organization is asking its supporters to put its trust in their efforts, typically they want a robust body of proof about a clear-cut wrong before they dedicate time and resources toward a campaign designed to hurt the company and its bottom line. In this case, NOM has launched a boycott that begins and ends at an internal survey that asked employees if they were allies of the LGBT community. That is not an overstatement: that is their one and only basis for telling people to pull their mortgages (Brian Brown says he has already pulled his.
But you know, this whole campaign is kind of a perfect commentary on where NOM is in the year 2014. They can't win anything, in any arena, and there actual events fail and fail hard (see the recent march for marriage). So what do they do? They just invent a story involving a high profile company so that they can keep their names in the news and keep their "victim" strategy alive.
What a legacy they're leaving!