Boycott Arkansas?

Americans’ basic human rights shouldn’t depend on where we live.

On Friday, March 31, when I started writing this article, an Arkansas legislator, GOP Sen. Linda Collins-Smith, had a few days earlier proposed bathroom bill legislation comparable to North Carolina’s HB-2 law, which was finally replaced last week after a devastating boycott by businesses and sports organizations.  On March 31 the Governor and tourism groups’ opposition led Collins-Smith to withdraw the bill from consideration this year.  She’s not done, though.  Collins-Smith plans to reintroduce the legislation in 2018 or 2019.

Arkansas has also made news with other regressive legislation during the last few months.  In March, the state governor signed anti-abortion legislation that among other things allows men to sue a doctor who performs an abortion on their wives without the written permission of the husband.   In September, a federal judge prevented the state from defunding Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid heath provider.  With the federal legislation to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood, Arkansas, along with other anti-abortion state governments will move rapidly to do so.  And, along with other states that are moving to criminalize citizen protests, the state senate passed a bill to make mass picketing illegal.

Boycotts and other financial pressure worked to force North Carolina Republicans to broker a repeal/replace of the infamous HB-2, their anti-transgender bathroom law.  There were other terrible things the law accomplished, including rolling back or preventing city ordinances from raising the minimum wage, and the replacement is almost as bad as the original.  But, financial pressure did have an effect.  Time will tell if the replacement is better enough to woo back the big sporting events that the state lost.

Is it possible to bring similar pressure against Arkansas and other red states attacking their citizens’ basic human rights?  I decided to make Arkansas’ business climate and ecosystem a small case study to see if large-scale generalized boycotts could work there.  I’m heartened that the state’s tourism and human rights organizations were able to turn back the bathroom bill last week, but on a personal, visceral level, I don’t want to spend money that flows to Arkansas right now, in much the same way that I won’t spend money on red state bourbon since the election.  Tennessee and Kentucky’s loss of my small bourbon consumption is the gain of West Coast bourbon distilleries.

There is virtually zero professional sports presence in the state, aside from a small handful of minor league teams.  There are no national championship games or series set to be played in Arkansas.  The state supports college sports enthusiastically, but doesn’t host big tournaments and championships. You can’t lose money you were never going to make.

Tourism and Entertainment

The tourism industry in Arkansas looks a little anemic to someone who has spent most of her life in California and Florida.  Places like Hot Springs National Park and the Central High School national monument (where desegregation began) are national treasures.  I can’t imagine calling for a boycott of something that could easily be lost to posterity in a cash-strapped state and in a nation where the Republican administration is actively looking for ways to sell off and monetize national lands.  Destinations like Oaklawn Racing and Gaming and Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, though, are fair game.

What about other businesses?  Are there currently movies or television series filmed in Arkansas?  Yes, there are.  Arkansas has a film industry, though it isn’t as robust as the film industry in North Carolina.  The following current television series are filmed in Arkansas:

Last Shot with Judge Gunn

Clash of the Ozarks

There is one movie set to be released in 2017 that was filmed in the state:

Antiquities – in post-production.

I’ll have no problem avoiding all of the above.  I hope you’ll also consider doing something else with your entertainment time and money.

So how else can we as individuals and businesses pressure Arkansas to get out of the 19th century?

Business to Consumer

The following regional and national companies have headquarters in Arkansas:

Alliance Rubber Company – A rubber band manufacturer that sells their products to commercial stationers, newspapers, and produce growers.  Watch for this company on labels’ fine print.  You can take it a little further and avoid produce that is bundled with rubber bands.

Arvest Bank – A regional bank headquartered in Arkansas.  If you live in the Southeast, consider a different bank.

Candy Bouquet – a confectionary gift delivery franchise headquartered in Little Rock.  You can find Candy Bouquets all over the country.  Since these businesses are franchises, boycotting the name may harm local businesses.  I’m going to avoid the name.  There are other options for confectionary gifts in my area.

Dillards – A department store company headquartered in Arkansas.  Note: they also sell Trump branded products.  I have occasionally shopped at Dillards in the past when on vacation in Florida.  Not anymore.

Mountain Valley Spring Water – Sourced and bottled in Arkansas, owned by Clear Mountain Spring Water Company of Little Rock.  I’ll pass.

Ranger Boats – A bass fishing boat company headquartered in Flippin, Arkansas.  Boats are sold by dealerships nationwide and in a few other countries.  If you happen to be in the market for a bass fishing boat, please see what other companies offer.

Riceland Foods – This company is a farmer’s cooperative and also owns mills.  They are headquartered in Arkansas.  As well as rice sold as their own brands, many private labels sell Riceland rice and rice-related products.  Although it’s easy to avoid their name brand products, it’s probably impossible to be sure a store brand or private label bag of rice wasn’t grown, milled or packaged by this company unless the rice sourced from states in a completely different region of the country.

Sam’s Club – This well known warehouse store chain is owned by the Walton family of Walmart fame, and is headquartered in Arkansas. There are many reasons to boycott this company if their connection to the state of Arkansas isn’t enough.

Shake’s Frozen Custard – A frozen dessert shop franchise now headquartered in Arkansas.  The franchises appear to mostly be in Arkansas and neighboring states.  Like Candy Bouquet, there’s a chance your boycott could harm a local business as well as the Arkansas-based company.

Tyson Foods – A food processing company, and the world’s largest processor and exporter of chicken, beef and pork.  Subsidiaries include Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidells, and State Fair.  If you’re already careful to source your poultry and meats to non-factory farms, you automatically avoid this company for the most part.

Walmart – This multinational retailing corporation is infamous for laying waste to the retail stores in towns where they are located, underpaying workers, and passing out information about state assistance programs for food and medical care to new hires.  Walmart is known to do business with the Trump family and carry some Trump brand products in their stores.  Like Sam’s Club, there are a host of reasons to avoid Walmoart.

Business to Business

These companies are harder to avoid unless your business uses these kinds of products and services and you decide who you partner with.  In North Carolina, large organizations were able to make business decisions that had a huge impact on the state’s revenue.  If Arkansas is susceptible to similar pressure, it may very well be in business decisions not to partner with these companies.

 Axciom – Marketing data analytics

ArcBest Corporation – (Arkansas Best)  A freight and logistics company with subsidiaries including ABF Freight System, Panther Premium Logistics, U-Pack and FleetNet America.

J. B. Hunt – Transportation logistics company.

Murphy Oil – Oil and gas exploration production company headquartered in Arkansas.

Stephens Inc. – An investment banking firm that has been behind many big projects in neighboring states, including the Houston Superdome.

Companies expanding into Arkansas

Arkansas-based Big River Steel and San Francisco-based AI company noodle.ai are collaborating to build a Smart steel mill in Arkansas.  This business partnership is worth discussing for numerous reasons.  A steel mill coming to an impoverished state with high rates of underemployment sounds like mana from Heaven, but this will be a modern, highly automated mill, and will employ very few workers compared to old style mills.  When our current Republican administration talks about bringing factories back to the United States, this is what would come back – factories filled with automation and artificial intelligence applications that employ few human beings.  Mass quantities of manufacturing jobs are not coming back from overseas.  Noodle.ai, a San Francisco company is doing business in a red state that is actively working to take away rights from LGBTQA individuals, reproductive health care from women, constitutional protections from undocumented immigrants via active cooperation with ICE, and criminalize citizen dissent via anti-protest legislation.  I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a local employee in a blue state that is actively working to protect its citizens from the worst effects of the Republican administration’s attacks on liberty, the environment, the ACA, and roll back progress made from the New Deal onward, and know that your company is enriching states like Arkansas.

I’ll update this article as relevant information about Arkansas legislation and businesses comes to light.

What do you think?  Is it possible to use economic weapons to get the attention red states like Arkansas, and encourage them to consider changing course like North Carolina has?  Are wide scale generalized boycotts targeting specific states an effective tool the rest of the nation can use on regressive, punitive laws passed by state governments emboldened by the Republican administration of our country?

Boycott Arkansas?
Boycott Arkansas? Our human rights shouldn’t vary based on the state where we live

Photo courtesy of Gratisography

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