Commentary: Big Business Stands Up for Affirmative Action

In a new memo sent to the Supreme Court, some of the biggest companies in the world said they support the controversial policy.

Posted: 10/26/2012 11:33 PM EDT
Commentary: Big Business Stands Up for Affirmative Action

The general feeling many Americans have about Big Business — especially in the wake of a financial crisis that saw CEOs profit while low-wage employees suffered — is that it’s evil. The nation’s biggest corporations are seen as greedy establishments, and that they’re havens for wealthy white men who want to exclude poor people and minorities from their ranks.

While it is true that some captains of industry really are greedy thugs, not all corporate titans have it out for people outside of their tax bracket.

To wit, just last week, 57 of the largest corporations in America — including Dow Chemical, Halliburton and Wal-Mart — sent a letter to the Supreme Court saying that in order to grow their businesses the way they would like, they support affirmative action for colleges.

The Supreme Court is currently considering a case that could end affirmative action as we know it, so the companies filed what’s called a “friend-of-the-court brief” to let the justices know where they stand on the issue.

Reports Paul M. Barrett at Bloomberg Businessweek:

“The only means of obtaining a properly qualified group of employees,” the businesses said in the brief, written by the law firm Jenner & Block, “is through diversity in institutions of higher education, which are allowed to recruit and instruct the best qualified minority candidates and create an environment in which all students can meaningfully expand their horizons.”

Merck says having people of South Asian and Arab descent on the payroll has helped drive sales. The company had anticipated that Muslim women would be hesitant to use its Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the virus that causes cervical cancer. So, Merck told the court in the brief, it “sought the assistance of its Muslim employees in obtaining halal certification” — the Islamic equivalent of the kosher stamp of approval — for the vaccine. “Having a diverse workforce helped us get this product to market faster and ensure that it would be well-received by customers around the world,” says Bruce Kuhlik, Merck’s executive vice president and general counsel.

Another corporation, power company Exelon, told Businessweek that it wants “job applicants who have worked together in a diverse student body because that’s the world they will find here.”

With several big banks continuing to face allegations that they intentionally preyed upon minorities in an effort to boost profits, it can be difficult to have any faith in corporations anymore.

It’s nice to see that even companies like Wal-Mart, which continues to have its share of problems relating to the Black community, are at least attempting to make amends.

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(Photo: Daniel Aguilar/Getty Images)

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