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ADVOCACY - IN BUSINESS AND IN LIFE

"We must take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all." - Elie Wiesel (If you have to, here's a link.)

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What one thinks about people, life, the law, business and money is least important. The principled actions, including arguments, one makes are what matter; not what is offhandedly stated as "I believe."

Worse is to be "politically correct." That does not mean being "diplomatic;" to be "politically correct" means to "tell lies." The worst offenders, naturally and by definitions are, on "both sides of the aisle," folk such as these:

Nixon, Clinton and Clinton in denial

"I can't say THAT. It will offend (pick an ear; any ear)." Try this website DefendAcademicFreedom.org as an example efforts to combat bigots with post-graduate degrees. The idea that "scholars" (giving the boycotters an honored appellation they don't deserve, but respecting the title they self-anoint) would boycott other scholars -- who deserve the title without reservation -- based on religious prejudice is incomprehensible. (Anyone who is naive enough to believe the boycotters' position statement rationale (a different website) is valid ought to just stop reading, now.)

Photo of bigot on a motorcycle.For more than the first eight decades of the 20th Century, actively reprehensible anti-Black and anti-Semitic practices were... well "practiced," despite Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, KS) in 1964. It still rides around.

This rider is a hopeless case. If one is stupidly bigoted enough to showcase that sentiment in 2014 -- September 11, no less -- he's beyond help, but has to be guarded against. It's a good guess his boss, co-workers, business contacts, family, friends and close neighbors are not Jewish.

But how does one handle his ilk in a business "relationship?"

In the early 1980s, our company's Customer Service Manager of many years was an American of Japanese descent. Her grandparents had immigrated to the U.S. Last name anglicized and spelled, "Tojo."

On a regular walk through her department, I stopped at her desk and asked how things were going. With some excitement in her voice and holding up to me a packet of about ten papers clipped together, she said, "We just received this order for 50,000 book bags for the University of Washington; it's about $8,400." (This was in the 1980s; that was a nice order.)

We sold many college stores through local distributors as well as directly. I asked Sheila, "Where'd the order originate?"

She replied, "Baker Paper, in Seattle. Mr. Baker phoned us with it."

I was familiar with some other "Baker"-named companies, but not "paper" in Seattle. I told Sheila I didn't know them. She stated, "They're new with us..." and I started to turn to get an industry guide to reference them, when Sheila blurted out, "...but I don't think you'd like them."

My turn continued a full 360° instead of the 180° I had planned. Sheila realized we were both sharing an "OOOOOOPS, Eureka?" moment. She, OOOOOOPS; me, Eureka?

"Uhhhh... why do you think I wouldn't like them?"

"Oh, nothing... just an odd call."

"Sheila, we get lots of odd calls, but they hardly ever make me 'not like' the oddball."

"It really wasn't anything..." But as my stare got a bit sharper, she opened up a bit, "Well, when he heard my last name was 'Tojo,' he started making sing-song type accents in his speech. That's all."

She was not yet comfortable... because I hadn't left her desk. Her "that's all" was filled with mystery. "Sheila, please... you're not in any difficulty, but I can see you're in some discomfort. Please, what else did Mr. Baker say to you?"

"Well... (hesitating to think how to voice it) after we discussed the details and he was satisfied with the specs, pricing and all, he said, 'I'm really happy to start working with you. I hate dealing with those big-nose Jews at Uniflex'." (Uniflex was a competitor of about our company's age, and I had worked with their board chairman for years before and later on a number of common industry issues.)

"He REALLY said THAT to you???"

"Yes..."

I picked up the packet of papers from her desk; she tried to grab them back. "Sheila, please; let me have that order," and she released it to me.

"WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?" she questioned, not wanting the company to lose an order that size.

"I'm going to make a phone call and meet Mr. Baker."

Which I did. I told him we were not going to accept or process his order; we were sending it back, and he should not send us any other orders. When he asked why, I told him what I knew he had said (which he denied, several times over), and it was our company policy to "not have business or personal relationships with bigots."

"I DIDN'T DO ANYTHING; WHAT DID I SAY???" I told him I wouldn't dignify his comments or demean myelf by repeating them. We mailed his order materials back and left it for him to find a different supplier.

Next stop: my word-processor. Two letters (pre-business email days) went out, one to the Seattle Chapter of the Ameriacan Jewish Committee (AJC), the other to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Pacific Northwest, offices in Seattle.

About three weeks later, my phone rang. "Mr. Makrauer?" "Yes..." "This is (name forgotten); I'm an officer of the Seattle (either AJC or ADL; can't recall), and I can't tell you how much we appreciate your letter about Baker Paper. For years he has been a widely known bigot... Jews, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics... and we've known about his actions for all that time. But you are the first person who has been willing to go on the written record so we now actually have something documented we can use against him..."

I interrupted, "What do you mean 'use against him?' I don't want to become a defendant in a defamation suit."

"Don't worry; you won't. I'm an attornery who has dealt with these types of matters for a long time, and you will not get involved in any way. But, I wanted to thank you in behalf of a lot of us who have suffered his insults for years."

When I told Sheila, she was thrilled; she, too, had been a subject of his derision and bigotry.

That's the end of the story... sort of. We never heard anything adversarial from Baker Paper or any of the human rights organizations following up. But, about three months later, Sheila brought me a new order received by mail, no phone conversation, again from Baker Paper, althought signed by a different person, for a unique product we produced and not generally available elsewhere close to our price-level. "That's odd. Didn't this guy get the point or the message? Have you ever received a call from this man?"

"No."

"Well, I'll call him."

This fellow was aware of the earlier incident; he was Mr. Baker's son-in-law. He answered my next question, "Mr. Baker is no longer active in the daily business."

Begged parsing. "Is Mr. Baker in management?" "No."

"Is he on the board of directors?" "Well, he does advise us, now and then."

"Does he still have an ownership interest in the company?" "Well, he still owns some of it."

"Then that means he financially benefits from its operations, which means we cannot accept this or any order from your company. He's a bigot, and we won't do business with a company we know would benefit a bigot."

...when conditions warrant, one has to advocate what's proper.

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When the president and his wife one of your friendly competitors are murdered by an employee, on parole, who was given a job because the company president wanted to help him "get back into society," what do you do when the tragedy itself is not bad enough?

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Another and more expensive type of "advocacy" is in industry issue work, when competing industry associations or mistaken and manipulated consumer groups work against your company and others in your industry that make products competing with and replacing theirs. This article from PlasticsNews briefly describes a significant effort at advocacy, taking place over many years and costing our company, alone, several hundred thousand dollars over the duration.

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More coming to this page...

 

 

 

 

 


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