Main | Friday, February 13, 2009

A Familiar Boycott Conundrum

On Wednesday, Californians Against Hate launched a boycott against the Utah-based Ken Garff Automotive, which has 53 dealerships in six states, due to the $100K donation to Prop 8 by the head of the family that founded the company.

That same day, CAH's Fred Karger met with executives at the dealership chain and may be about to announce an amicable resolution, possibly due to the "sizable" donations the company has made to the HRC in the past and its support of Utah Pride.
Katharine Garff, who was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment, is company president John Garff's mother. She made the donation to the pro-Prop 8 group, a week before the Nov. 4 election, according to filings with the California Secretary of State. Karger and John Garff said they had agreed to keep the substance of their settlement discussions confidential for now, but both confirmed that Karger was drafting a proposal for steps the company might take to resolve the boycott, following the pair's meeting late Wednesday at Garff offices. "Fred and I focused on common ground, and there is plenty of common ground,'' Garff said of their meeting, adding that the exchange included details of the company's extensive history of support for Utah's gay and lesbian community.

Karger called the meeting with Garff "a good healthy dialogue" and said he hoped his call for customers to stay away from Garff dealerships could be withdrawn soon, though he refused to be specific about a time frame. Karger said the group's Internet site and other Internet-based efforts would remain active until final details of the settlement were worked out
. This is a civil rights issue," Karger said.

In addition to having a nondiscriminatory policy on hiring and employment, Garff Automotive is an annual donor to the pro-gay rights Human Rights Campaign and has donated vehicles to the Utah Pride parade, along with a range of other diversity-promoting causes, Garff said. "Fred learned some things I don't think he knew," Garff said. Jerry Rapier, Utah's representative on the Human Rights Campaign's national board of governors, confirmed that annual donations from the Garff company made up a sizable share of corporate largess for the group's banquet and silent auction. Noting that he was expressing his personal view, Rapier said the boycott call "offends me and seems shortsighted."

This is a familiar conundrum. Do we punish a company that seems to be doing to right thing, in order to hurt the haters that benefit from the company's profitability? Remember Coors?

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