Target Corporation, after coming under fire for contributions to an anti-gay candidate, is refusing a call to "make it right" and two weeks of negotiations with the Human Rights Campaign have stalled.
About 50 people turned out Saturday, Aug. 14 for a protest of the new Target store in Chicago, on Broadway just north of Montrose. They were calling for a boycott of the store because of a recent $150,000 contribution to a fund, Minnesota Forward, that in turn gave that money to right-wing conservative Republican candidate Rep. Tom Emmer in his race for Minnesota governor.
While Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel has apologized to employees for the contribution, and while Target also met with HRC to mitigate damages, they have not requested the funds back, and Chicago activists are demanding that before they stop boycotting the store.
If Target does get the money back, or even if it does not, activists are calling on the store to give equal or more money to Emmer's Democratic opponent as well as gay organizations and candidates in Minnesota, where the superstore is based. Now that negotiations with HRC have come to a standstill, a boycott is likely to continue. [ See sidebar on more HRC news. ]
"We will not be targets" chanted one of the protest's organizers, Rick Heintz, as the group marched in front of the store. Heintz also cut a cake commemorating the victory in the Prop 8 gay-marriage case in California. As the Target protest went on in the midday sun, dozens of drivers honked their horns in support.
Sixteen-year-old New Trier High School student Zachary Fraum initiated the Chicago protest. He came out the week before during the Gay Liberation Network's protest in Arlington Heights against the Americans for Truth About Homosexuality.
"I have known I was gay since I was 10 years old," Fraum said, adding that Emmer is not just anti-gay, but right-wing on other social issues such as abortion and immigration.
Organizer Andy Thayer of Gay Liberation Network made it clear they were not against the employees of Target, who he said are also victims of an anti-gay CEO who also opposes a unionized workforce. Target's CEO "says through his contributions that he hates them, and that has to be a horrible burden" for employees, Thayer said. "To the workers, we say we are on your side."
Transgender activist Dove Paige Anthony asked Target to "stop funding our oppression now!" Anti-war activist Heather Benno from the Answer Coalition connected the dots between those who oppose gay rights and the bigots who get elected and work against gay issues. She said gay rights are the "civil-rights struggle of our generation."
Carrie Maxwell, a former Target employee, said this boycott was a slippery slope, now that the U.S. Supreme Court said corporations can give campaign contributions. "What if Illinois companies like Walgreens and Kraft do this? What are we going to do?" she asked. "So maybe Target, if they can't get the money back, can donate double to gay groups and to the Democratic candidate."
Thayer and GLN's Bob Schwartz said the protesters' demands include Target getting the money back, Target giving that money to a Minnesota gay group and the Target CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, issuing a "real apology."
Several people at the protest also mentioned that Best Buy is also guilty of similar campaign contributions, and should also be boycotted.
Although Target Corporation has been the target of LGBT-rights activists, the company apparently will not take any action to counter its donation to political action committee Minnesota Forward, according to an Aug. 16 press release from the Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) .
In response, HRC announced that it will donate $150,000 of its own resources to counter GOP candidate Tom Emmer and help elect a pro-LGBT governor and legislature in the state.
HRC had been in negotiations with Target for the corporation to counter its Minnesota Forward contribution with a similar one to a pro-equality group.
"All fair-minded Americans will now rightly question Target's commitment to equality. If their initial contribution was a slap in the face, their refusal to make it right is a punch in the gut and that's not something that we will soon forget," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "However, with full marriage equality hanging in the balance in Minnesota, regardless of Target, it's important that we as a community send a message that we will work tirelessly to elect pro-equality candidates."
Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel sent a memo to employees apologizing for the donation. However, no other correction action has taken place to date.
Gay-rights activists are now also watching Best Buy, which has also contributed to Minnesota Forward. The Chicago Tribune reported that Best Buy spokeswoman Sue Busch Nehring said that the donation "was focused solely on jobs and an improved economy. We've learned from this and we will review the process we use to make political contributions, to avoid any future confusion. We'll seek out employee input and ideas about policy and process."
According to ABC News, HRC spokesman Fred Sainz said that Target and his group had reached two tenuous agreements. "Then when we were ready to pull the trigger, literally at the 11th hour on two occasions, they pulled back and said they were not ready to proceed," Sainz said. "