Posts Tagged ‘Blue Cross Blue Shield’

An open letter to AT&T’s Joelle Phillips on SB2566

February 17th, 2014 No comments

bell phillipsBelow is an open letter I have sent to Tennessee’s AT&T President Joelle Phillips regarding Sen. Mike Bell’s (R-Riceville) discriminatory legislation SB2566.

My hope is we will see an effort that was promised us in 2011 and like we are now seeing by AT&T and the Chamber of Commerce in the state of Kansas regarding a similar discriminatory bill.

In the meantime, learn more about what you can do from the Tennessee Equality Project.


Joelle Phillips:

I would like to know where AT&T Tennessee stands on SB2566, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell that would protect the choice of businesses to discriminate against legally married same-sex couples.

AT&T Kansas as well as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are publicly working against a mirror of this bill in Kansas. You can read about their effort here.

In May 2011, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce expressed regret for pushing discriminatory HB600 after AT&T President Gregg F. Morton and nine other prominent job-creating members stood up and issued public statements of opposition to the Chamber’s bill. AT&T in particular made a promise:

While the timing of the announced change by the Chamber was not ideal, I believe their public statement sent a positive message to show that the business community stands against discrimination. AT&T does not support any laws, or legislative efforts, that discriminate against populations based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, and I know businesses across our state similarly oppose any form of discrimination.

That opposition should be clearly reflected by those who represent us in Nashville, and I am confident that this will be the case going forward. I know AT&T will work with NGLCC and other advocacy groups to oppose measures that we believe to be discriminatory against these populations, not only in the state of Tennessee, but also across the nation, and we will encourage the Chamber to adopt similar positions in the future.

You can read Gregg’s statement here. Tennessee Chamber President Deb Woolley’s contract was not renewed following what many viewed as her misuse of prominent national brands in support of discrimination. Will you issue a public statement regarding SB2566 and work against it as promised and as the President of AT&T Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are now doing against a similar bill in Kansas?


UPDATE 2-18-14 11:45am: AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips has responded saying that AT&T will stand up for their values and join the effort to stop SB2566. AT&T is the first of several major American brands and prominent members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce to take a stand for equality.

Dear Mr. Grantham,

Thank you for contacting me about this bill. I appreciate you bringing it to my attention, and I appreciate your recognition of AT&T’s past work to speak out on discrimination.

As you noted, AT&T opposes discrimination against people based on race, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

AT&T’s position on discrimination is simple; we oppose it, and we don’t do it. AT&T is contacting members of the general assembly to communicate our concern that the bill conflicts with that position.

Joelle Phillips President – AT&T Tennessee
333 Commerce Street, Suite 2104
Nashville, TN 37201

UPDATE 2-18-14 2:18pm: I’ve reached out to the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and other prominent members (Nissan, Blue Cross Blue Shield, KPMG, Embraer, Comcast, FedEx, and Pfizer) asking them to join AT&T and other Tennessee businesses in standing up for equality and fairness and stopping SB2566.

UPDATE 2-18-14 5:46pm: The bill’s Senate Sponsor, Sen. Mike Bell, has withdrawn his bill!

Read more from 2011:

Why Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600

Rep. Glen Casada was the Tea Party pick for House Speaker to lead their divisive charge through Tennessee government, but the state’s Republican Party wisely chose their best leader instead by electing the first female Speaker of the House in state history.

There is a reason Rep. Casada’s own party didn’t entrust him with that power, and it’s the same reason Gov. Bill Haslam should veto HB0600.

Republicans ran on a jobs agenda, but the video above clearly shows where jobs falls on the agenda of Rep. Glen Casada and how much time his politics takes away from serious issues. This session proved that point yet again to the voters of Tennessee.

Rep. Casada was so desperate to stop Nashville’s local city government from extending work place protections to its citizens that Casada convinced lawmakers that Tennessee’s most respected job creators wanted to defeat such protections as well.

Rep. Casada worked with friends at the TN Chamber of Commerce who willingly borrowed the prestige of some of their most innovative and successful brands creating jobs in districts across the state: FedEx, AT&T, Comcast, DuPont, Pfizer, Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Caterpillar, KPMG, Whirlpool, Embraer and United HealthCare.

But there was just one problem with that. As these brands are just now finding out this week, the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce misappropriated and misrepresented their values to lawmakers, the governor and the voters of Tennessee. Here’s some of the statements released in the past few days:


“Alcoa provides equal employment opportunity without discrimination and supports state and local legislation protecting the rights of all community members. We do not agree with the chamber on this issue and would ask that the governor veto the bill.


FedEx did not lobby for SB632/HB600 – it is our policy not to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. While FedEx is a member of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, we do not support every position proposed by the Chamber.


HB600/SB632 has become more closely associated with eroding civil liberties than fostering a strong business climate and this we do not support.

This is the kind of politics Rep. Glen Casada engages in. It’s the only kind of politics that makes good business distance itself from Tennessee, and it’s all that’s left for politicians who give up on serving their people.

Governor Haslam, don’t be the kind of governor that lifts up this kind of politics. Be Tennessee’s governor, and tell the legislature to focus on your jobs agenda by vetoing HB0600.

TAKE ACTION: use the following form to send a message to members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

UPDATE 5-23-11 12:34pm: KPMG is now the latest major job creator in Tennessee to join Alcoa, Nissan, FedEx and AT&T in calling out the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s misuse of their brands. Tell Gov. Bill Haslam to embrace the pro-business politics of our state’s very best job creators and stop legislative efforts to push them away.

KPMG did not vote to support the Chamber’s adoption of a policy to back this bill, nor do we support the legislation, the effect of which runs counter to KPMG’s policies, core values and our long-standing support for diversity in the workplace in all its forms. KPMG fosters an environment of inclusion and we encourage our employees to share their views, sexual orientation and gender identity, broadening everyone’s awareness of individual differences. We are proud of our record and the fact that Diversity Inc recently named KPMG the top firm for LGBT employees.

UPDATE 5-23-11 2:08pm: UnitedHealth is the latest job creator in Tennessee to distance itself from the TN Chamber of Commerce in an expression of their much better values:

UnitedHealth Group believes in recruiting and retaining a workforce that mirrors the multicultural communities we serve. A mix of different backgrounds and perspectives helps us develop strong products and programs our customers need. As part of that commitment, UnitedHealth Group supports and offers domestic partner benefits. We did not lobby for nor support Tennessee SB632/HB600.

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:00pm: Comcast issues statement opposing this law saying it “sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country”

At Comcast, we believe it’s simple: discrimination is wrong. Our policy of non-discrimination provides the same protections to all our employees, whether in Tennessee or any other state. Consistent with that, we don’t support Tennessee SB632/HB600. Comcast agrees with the NGLCC, “No one should be judged by his or her sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. In this delicate economic climate, diminishing the rights of LGBT people sends the wrong signal across Tennessee and around the country.”

UPDATE 5-23-11 4:29pm: Whirlpool joins Tennessee’s most successful companies in opposing HB600 and the values expressed by the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce.

Whirlpool Corporation opposes this legislation, which runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion. We are reaching out to the Governor’s office and the Chamber to inform them of our position.

UPDATE 5-23-11 5:27pm: Embraer “does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position.” Governor Haslam, let’s stand with the very best industries in Tennessee.

While we are members of the Chamber of Commerce, Embraer has not lobbied for the SB632/HB600 and does not support the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce’s position on this or any initiative that limits the principle of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:00pm: Gov. Bill Haslam has signed HB600, siding with a divisive political agenda over the pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s best job creators. Gov. Haslam has chosen to lift a brand of politics in Tennessee that good businesses and the nation’s best job creators vocally oppose.

UPDATE 5-23-11 6:30pm: TN Chamber of Commerce President Deb Woolley issued the following statement well after the consequences of her decision to lobby against pro-business values and policies of Tennessee’s most successful employers. Woolley could have called the Governor herself and told him not to sign. She didn’t. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce deserves a caliber of leadership that best represents the values and successful business practices of its very best members and job creators.

The Tennessee Chamber supports a standard regulatory environment at the state level as opposed to potentially conflicting local regulations covering employment practices. That principle was the only interest the Chamber had in this bill. Because HB600/SB632 has turned into a debate on diversity and inclusiveness—principles which we support—we are now officially opposing this legislation in its present form.

Adopted unanimously May 23, 2011


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