Yesterday, a new federal report was released detailing the ups and downs of Charlotte’s hosting of last year’s Democratic National Convention. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police released a report of their own, itemizing how they spent a $50 million federal security grant.
The Charlotte Observer reports on a wide range of expenses, ranging from police security gear, technological needs, housing for out-of-town law enforcement officials and more.
But, how many of the companies which benefited from this $50 million windfall have employment non-discrimination policies that match the city’s? How much money landed in the hands of companies who practice — or, at the very least, refuse to prohibit — the types of discrimination the city itself says is wrong?
First, a brief primer: The City of Charlotte prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of characteristics like race, color and religion in its city charter. But, that statement excludes sexual orientation and gender identity. Advocates had long wanted an LGBT-inclusive employment non-discrimination policy, but how to get it was of concern. Ultimately, Council itself took no action. Back in 2010, former City Manager Curt Walton amended his personnel policies to prohibit discrimination against city workers on the basis of sexual orientation. In December 2012, unfortunately after the DNC, Walton added gender identity to the protections. Yet, the city manager doesn’t have the power to amend the city’s Commercial Non-Discrimination Ordinance, which requires businesses contracting to provide services for the city to certify that their non-discrimination standards match the city’s. That ordinance remains unchanged by City Council, meaning companies who provide services for the city may, indeed, discriminate against LGBT employees even though the city itself disallows it and taxpayers, including LGBT citizens, must fund their services.
The overwhelming majority of the $50 million grant went toward paying reimbursements to City of Charlotte departments and for paying law enforcement officers, as well as technological needs, security equipment and other services.
But, what of the rest — about $13.9 million spent with local companies in and around Charlotte and Mecklenburg County? What if the Commercial Non-Discrimination Ordinance had been LGBT-inclusive? What if the city also chose to implement non-discrimination guidelines in its purchasing and procurement policies? How might have local organizations and businesses fared if Council amended the ordinance to match its own policies and the DNC were held today?
At first glance, we’re talking about a $1,133,284.42 spent locally on colleges, food service companies and restaurant franchises that either actively discriminate against, refuse to prohibit discrimination against or have yet to add fully-inclusive protections for LGBT workers.
That’s $1.1 million in public money going to companies that may or may not discriminate against a portion of the city’s taxpayers, citizens and residents, in clear contradiction to the city’s own stated standards.
In reality, the fix to this problem could be relatively simple, if only City Council would ever take up a vote on LGBT-inclusive measures. Relying on unelected bureaucrats like city managers — however LGBT-friendly they may be — will only get the city so far. At some point, real up-or-down votes from the dais — which the city hasn’t taken on a single stand-alone LGBT measure in 21 years — becomes less a matter of representative symbolism and more a matter of real, practical law that affects citizens’ and taxpayers’ lives and bottom lines.
There’s no excuse for public money being spent on companies that do not live up to the city’s own standards for protecting its public workers. Taxpayers should not be in the business of funding corporations who refuse to treat all their workers fairly and equally, just like the city treats all its workers and citizens.
In the grand scheme, $1.1 million is a relatively small portion of the overall $50 million DNC budget, but it’s just the tip of the potentially much larger iceberg. A full accounting of local companies which received $13.9 million in cash payments from the city can be found here. Without doubt, many others than those accounted for in this commentary also have incomplete non-discrimination policies. Perhaps groups like the Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee, which has repeatedly failed to secure a vote on LGBT equality initiatives, might find this data useful in their continued push to see progress at city hall.
An accounting of the companies The Charlotte Observer highlighted is below, along with our own information on each of their non-discrimination policies…
Officer housing and meals
The largest portion of lodging and meals purchases went to local colleges Johnson & Wales and Johnson C. Smith. Both housed and fed out-of-town law enforcement officers. Compass Group, which contracts with Johnson & Wales, received $22,358.40 to feed officers, while Johnson & Wales was paid $188,333.04 to house officers. Johnson C. Smith received $202,761.50 for meals and $726,289.97 for housing.
- Compass Group’s non-discrimination policy includes sexual orientation, but excludes gender identity.
- Johnson & Wales’ policies include both sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Johnson C. Smith’s policy includes sexual orientation, but excludes gender identity.
Total food/lodging expense spent on companies with incomplete non-discrimination policies: $951,409.87.
The city also spent money on other meals: $49,018.68 went to Jersey Mike’s, $50,073.58 to Firehouse Subs and $82,262.63 to Jasons’ Deli. The city also spent $450.40 on Chick-fil-A and $69.26 went to Bojangles. The city also spent $95,686.50 with Pepsi Cola.
- Employment policy information for Jersey Mike’s and Firehouse Subs couldn’t easily be found, though Firehouse Subs says it is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
- Jason’s Deli’s policies, according to an employment application, include neither sexual orientation nor gender identity.
- Chick-fil-A excludes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Bojangles includes sexual orientation, but excludes gender identity, according to an online application.
- PepsiCo, Inc., includes both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Total food expense spent on companies with incomplete non-discrimination policies: $181,874.55