Nike, American Airlines, Coca-Cola accused of putting “woke politicians” ahead of customers
09/12/2021 // Nolan Barton // Views

Consumers' Research, an educational nonprofit dedicated to consumer information, accused Nike, American Airlines and Coca-Cola of putting "woke politicians" ahead of their customers in an ad campaign launched Tuesday, May 18.

The ad targeting Nike described the shoe company as "constantly political," while showing a picture of former National Football League (NFL) quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had been known for taking a knee during the national anthem before games in protest of police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick was hired by Nike as a model.

The ad also touched on Nike's alleged involvement with forced labor in China.

"Congressional reports suspect Nike used forced labor in China. Religious minorities were ripped from their families, sterilized, sold to factories. Nike made shoes in those same areas," the ad stated. "Congress tried to ban Nike's labor practices. Nike fought back with highly-paid lobbyists."

The ad targeting American Airlines scoffed at the company's move to join the campaign against Texas voting laws while asking its passengers to show ID before boarding flights. It also criticized its shrinking legroom. Texas is currently trying to usher in new rules that aim to make elections safer by demanding voters to present ID.

"Any legislation dealing with how elections are conducted must ensure ballot integrity and security while making it easier to vote, not harder," American Airlines said in a statement. "At American, we believe we should break down barriers to diversity, equity and inclusion in our society – not create them."


The ad pointed out the irony of the airline company's stance: "American [Airlines] requires passengers to show ID to fly, but attacks Texas's popular voter ID law." (Related: American Airlines now endorses terrorism, violence, arson and murder by encouraging employees to wear BLM propaganda buttons.)

In the third ad, the Consumers' Research criticized Coca-Cola for speaking out against Georgia's voting laws that are similar to Texas.

Last month, James Quincey, the CEO of Coca-Cola, said: "This legislation is unacceptable. It is a step backwards. This legislation is wrong and needs to be remedied and we will continue to advocate for it both in private and now even more clearly in public."

The ad stated that "Coca-Cola is getting political." It claimed that Coca-Cola is attacking Georgia's popular voting laws to distract from years of dismal sales and terrible 2020 results. The ad also accused Coca-Cola of benefiting from forced labor in China, poisoning America's youth and worsening the obesity crisis.

Opening salvo against corporate activism

Consumers' Research Executive Director Will Hild told the Washington Examiner that his group has a 91-year history of standing up for consumers. He said that the ad campaign came about because they saw that "increasingly, businesses were cozying up to woke politicians" as cover and distraction for failures in their own businesses.

Hild said that the ad will run on cable channels. He noted that the campaign, which is costing more than $1 million, is just an opening salvo in Consumers' Research's battle against corporate activism.

"This is phase one. We're putting these three companies on notice that consumers have had it, and they need to focus on serving their consumers and not woke politicians," he said. "It is time these corporate giants were called to task. We are giving consumers a voice. These companies should be putting their energy and focus on serving their customers, not woke politicians."

Coca-Cola said that Consumers' Research is presenting an inaccurate picture, pointing out that the company had "taken steps to help people reduce the amount of sugar they consume." It also denied using forced labor.

The company said it respects human rights everywhere it operates and has "strict policies prohibiting forced labor" in its business and with its suppliers.

"We respect everyone's right to raise their concerns and express their views, but we also believe the best way to make progress now is for us all to come together to listen, respectfully share concerns and collaborate on a path forward," Coca-Cola told Fox Business in a statement. "We remain open to productive conversations with groups who may have differing views."

Nike and American Airlines did not respond to the ads, although the latter pointed Fox Business to its original statement regarding Texas's voter ID law.

"As a Texas-based business, we must stand up for the rights of our team members and customers who call Texas home, and honor the sacrifices made by generations of Americans to protect and expand the right to vote," American Airlines said in an April 1 statement. "Voting is the hallmark of our democracy, and is the foundation of our great country."

Nike, Coca-Cola lobbied to weaken the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act

Nike and Coca-Cola are among the major companies and business groups that lobbied Congress to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labor in China's Xinjiang region, according to lobbying records that show vast spending on the legislation. (Related: US corporations lobbying against bill cracking down on products made with Xinjiang forced labor.)

The bill, which would prohibit broad categories of certain goods made by Uighur minorities in an effort to crack down on human rights abuses, has gained bipartisan support – passing the House in September last year by a margin of 406 to 3.

The legislation, called the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act, has become the target of multinational companies whose supply chains touch the far western Xinjiang region.

Lobbyists have fought to water down some of its provisions, arguing that while they strongly condemn forced labor and current atrocities in Xinjiang, the act's ambitious requirements could wreak havoc on supply chains that are deeply embedded in China.

Xinjiang produces vast amounts of raw materials like cotton, coal, sugar, tomatoes and polysilicon, and supplies workers for China's apparel and footwear factories.

In a report issued in March last year, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, listed Nike and Coca-Cola as companies suspected of ties to forced labor in Xinjiang. Human rights groups and news reports have also linked Coca-Cola to sugar sourced from Xinjiang and documented Uighur workers in a factory in Qingdao that makes Nike shoes.

Lobbying disclosures show that Nike and Coca-Cola have spent heavily to sway Congress on Xinjiang-related legislation.

In the first three quarters of 2020, Nike spent $920,000 on in-house lobbying of Congress and other federal agencies. Disclosures do not break down expenditures but show Nike lobbied on matters including physical education grants, taxes and climate change, as well as the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act.

Nike also paid outside firms like Cornerstone Government Affairs, Ogilvy, Capitol Counsel, GrayRobinson, American Continental Group, DiNino Associates and Empire Consulting Group to lobby on issues including the act.

Coca-Cola, on the other hand, spent $4.68 million in the first three quarters of 2020 on in-house lobbying and hiring Empire Consulting Group and Sidley Austin to lobby on issues including the act.

Follow to know more about companies benefiting from forced labor in China.

Sources include:

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