People say “Big corporations don’t actually care about LGBT individuals, they’re just pandering to you because they want your money.”
But have you considered, just for a moment, how it feels to LGBT individuals to know that they are considered important enough to pander to? The notion that corporations, plural, are actively chasing gay dollars, lesbian coin, bi bucks, trans tender, is huge. It would have been almost unthinkable even as recently as a decade ago.
It’s considered more financially lucrative, more worthwhile, to pander to us than it is to pander solely to straight white cisfolk. Don’t diminish the importance of that, because that is massive. It’s a huge step forward.
Over 100,000 marine animals and 1,000,000 sea birds die each year from eating plastic, and Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida has recently created an edible six-pack ring to help conserve wildlife. The material is made up of grains left over from the brewing process, making it edible, compostable, and biodegradable.
The self-expression promoted in Pride parades has been increasingly facilitated by corporate sponsors. Anyone who has attended a major Pride event in recent years has felt the heavy presence of big businesses: Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Walmart, and Diet Coke, to name a few. According to Project Queer, more than half of the 253 participants in the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade were corporations, businesses, and banks. In comparison, LGBTQ groups represented less than 10% of the participants.
Not only is it irresponsible to corporatize Pride, many of the sponsorships promote products or lifestyles that are inaccessible or insensitive to the LGBTQ community across the United States. In New York, the Pride Parade runs down 5th Avenue in Manhattan, passing mainly high-profile shops and neighborhoods fitting of high-figure salaries. The Guardian notes that many of San Francisco Pride’s biggest sponsors, like Facebook and Google, contribute to the growing income inequality in Silicon Valley, while members of the LGBTQ community struggle with homelessness in skyrocketing numbers.
And The Chicagoist points out that alcohol companies frequently sponsor Pride events—yet over 30% of the LGBTQ community is projected to struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, a rate three times higher than the general population.
Others feel unsafe by support from big businesses. Members of the LGBTQ community have rallied against Wells Fargo’s sponsorship in particular, criticizing the bank’s history of investing in private prisons that incarcerate LGBTQ persons, especially queer and trans people of color, at disproportionate rates.
So basically the Supreme Court just said that a corporation not only has free speech, can contribute as much money as it wants to political causes, it also has the ability to impose its religious beliefs on its employees and tell you what you can and cannot do with your body.
But somehow when they actually have to take responsibility for things like poisoning water supplies and knowingly manufacturing goods that kill people they don’t go to jail or get shut down.
God bless America, a country of the corporation, by the corporation and for the corporation.
There’s this idea that work is discipline – you can’t become a mature, responsible, self-contained, proper person without basically working more than you want to at things you don’t really like. The more unpleasant work is, the more moralising it is. And that logic has become stronger and stronger and stronger, so anybody who doesn’t work you can revile as a parasite.
Cable television subscribers dodged a major bullet when Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable fell through earlier this year. Even so, Comcast remains the largest cable television provider in the U.S. In both 2010 and 2014, Consumerist named Comcast “Worst Company in America” thanks to its ever-increasing prices and endless stream of consumer complaints. And year after year, Comcast finds itself at the bottom of the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). In a free-market system, customers who are treated badly should be able to take their business elsewhere. However, that’s easier said than done when options are so limited.
2. Time Warner Cable
In early 2013, Time Warner, the U.S.’ second largest cable television provider, announced it was launching a $50 million ad campaign in hopes of winning back customers it had lost, including 140,000 subscribers in 2012’s third quarter. Clearly, Time Warner was worried about customers switching to DirecTV for television or from cable broadband to Verizon FiOS for their high-speed Internet needs, but when it comes to cable, Time Warner dominates the market in many areas, and that lack of real competition has resulted in terrible customer service. According to ACSI, Time Warner Cable has ranked consistently low for customer satisfaction.
As some of Verizon’s FiOS customers see it, the telecom giant does have one redeeming quality: it isn’t Comcast. In May, Verizon agreed to pay a $90 million penalty after the FCC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau went after it for cramming, the unethical practice of adding unauthorized third-party charges to a customer’s bill in exchange for a commission. The cramming charges, which show up on the bill as a fee or tax, could range from a few cents to several dollars.
In 2012, Lifehacker.com conducted a survey on customer service and compiled a list of the five worst companies. Comcast, not surprisingly, came in at #1, and #2 was AT&T (the other three were Time Warner Cable, Verizon and PayPal). The most common complaints included slow data connections, dropped calls and billing errors. And if customers grow fed up with AT&T’s poor service and decide to go elsewhere, it comes at a heavy price: another major complaint was AT&T’s exorbitant fees for early termination.
5. United Airlines
In the U.S., there have been so many mergers that only four airlines—United, American, Southwest and Delta—now control 85% of domestic air travel. The result of all this consolidation: higher fares and worse customer service. According to the Department of Transportation, airline-related complaints increased by 26% in 2014. The number of lost or delayed bags increased by 17% between November 2013 and November 2014. And the larger United has become, the more customer service has suffered. In a November 2014 commentary for the New Yorker, Tim Wu listed a variety of ways in which the United/Continental merger had been terrible for consumers, from soaring baggage fees to ruder flight attendants to escalating fares (some as much as 57% higher on routes that became uncompetitive thanks to the merger).
6. American Airlines
If one dislikes the customer service at United, American Airlines isn’t likely to be much better. According to OSPIRG’s report, American “has generated increasingly more complaints per 100,000 customers since 2009” and “is now one of the most complained-about airlines.” Canceled flights were a common complaint in OSPIRG’s report, while “other top problems were about baggage, customer service” and “issues with reservations, bookings, and boarding.”
7. Bank of America
On May 6, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled a bill that calls for breaking up the largest banks within a year, including Bank of America. Sanders’ bill has zero support from Republicans in Congress, but the very fact that he is making such a proposal is a plus. BofA, one of the behemoths that was considered “too big to fail” during the Panic of 2008, has been allowed to keep growing larger, and the larger it becomes, the worse its customer service gets. In March 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly one-fourth of all consumer complaints CFPB was receiving were BofA-related.
8. Wells Fargo
In May, two major lawsuits were filed against Wells Fargo: one in a federal court, the other a state lawsuit filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Michael Feuer. In both lawsuits, Wells Fargo is accused of exploiting customers by opening unwanted accounts in order to generate fees. Matthew Preusch, an attorney in the federal case, alleges: “We have heard from Wells Fargo customers in multiple states who have been charged fees or faced collection actions for accounts they did not sign up for.”
The Affordable Care Act of 2010, aka Obamacare, has brought some desperately needed reforms to the health care insurance industry in the U.S. One of the goals of Obamacare is injecting more competition into that industry. However, the ACA needs to be expanded considerably, and doesn’t do enough to rein in companies like Aetna, which has a long history of raising premiums considerably while subjecting Americans to abysmal customer service.
10. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield
In 2011, the American Medical Association reported that 19.3% of health insurance claims were being processed incorrectly in the U.S. Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, aka Anthem, Inc., was among the worst offenders: only 61% of its claims were being processed correctly. But despite its bungling and atrocious customer service, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield wasn’t exactly known for reasonable prices. In 2009, Anthem Blue Cross raised rates as much as 68% on some individual policies in California only to announce that there would be additional rate hikes of up to 39% in California the following year.
I can’t help but be encouraged when major retailers run LGBTA-friendly ad campaigns. I know, I know, corporations are not our friends, but still: it means that somewhere in the bowels of that soulless corporate machine, the cold calculus of opportunity versus risk determined that gay people have more money than bigots. There’s some small comfort in that.
The real insurance cancellation scandal is over. Obamacare fixed it.
Los Angeles Times, 2007: One of the state’s largest health insurers set goals and paid bonuses based in part on how many individual policyholders were dropped and how much money was saved.
Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed.
The revelation that the health plan had cancellation goals and bonuses comes amid a storm of controversy over the industry-wide but long-hidden practice of rescinding coverage after expensive medical treatments have been authorized.
The practice was known as “rescission.” Companies hired people to go through the insurance forms of people undergoing expensive medical treatment, looking for typos or minor inaccuracies. If you forgot to mention a tooth filling – boom! – no chemotherapy for you. You’d have no insurance coverage at all and a pre-existing condition. You were screwed. This was the unregulated, free-market approach that Republicans tell you is so wonderful and perfect.
Obamacare made the practice illegal and in May of 2010, this particular corporate scam ended industry-wide.
“[Insurance companies] look for anything that they could say ‘you didn’t tell us about,’” Dale Rice, whose 17 year-old daughter’s coverage was pulled in the middle of a health crisis, told the Chicago Tribune. “They hope that people just lay down and die and don’t fight.”
The insurance industry was denying coverage and literally allowing people to die after taking their money for years. That’s a cancellation scandal and going back to that is not an option.