Issued May 16, 2022
NEW YORK – The SEIU Pension Plans Master Trust has filed a Racial Equity Audit proposal at Home Depot to gain insight into accusations of racist management practices by the corporation against workers. The proposal gained momentum with support from the Institutional Shareholder Service (ISS), which recommended that shareholders vote in favor of it. Voting is ongoing and the results will be announced at the Home Depot Annual Shareholder Meeting on May 19.
The ISS said in its recommendation: “While the company is taking some constructive steps to address the issue of racial inequality and injustice, it has some related controversies related to its policies and practices. A third-party racial equity audit could help shareholders assess the effectiveness of Home Depot’s efforts to address the adverse impacts of its policies and practices on non-white stakeholders and communities of color and its management of related risks. Therefore, shareholder support for this proposal is warranted.”
The proposal marks an increasing demand for transparency on corporate standards and racial equity among institutional shareholders of large corporations. Recently, shareholders at Apple voted in support of the Civil Rights Audit proposal that was co-filed by SEIU, SOC Investment Group and Trillium Asset Management. Shareholders are asking companies to prove that their commitment to diversity amounts to more than just corporate branding. Facebook, AirBnB and other companies have already conducted similar audits, which were run by an independent third party, with extensive civil rights experience.
“Today’s vote sends a message that working people will not allow their hard-earned retirement savings be used by a corporation that advances or turns a blind eye to racial injustice,” said Renaye Manley, deputy director of strategic initiatives at SEIU. “Home Depot’s brand has already been stained by corporate appeasement of police departments accused in the killings of unarmed Black citizens and those cheering on racist violence and overturning our democracy. Companies that confront systemic racism in their ranks and communities will provide the greatest returns for investors, workers and society at large, and this audit would provide a clear and objective road map to do so.”
The resolution cited numerous charges of racist practices by Home Depot management, including an highly publicized incident last year in which a store employee in Minneapolis was suspended for refusing to remove a Black Lives Matter logo from his uniform. The worker was pressured to quit if he continued to wear the insignia, and he quit. The National Labor Relations Board complaint found that the company had enforced its dress code policy “separately and disparately” against workers. In addition, Home Depot has donated to police foundations in both Detroit and Atlanta, cities plagued by race-based police violence, and has funded police surveillance technology used to target communities of color and nonviolent protests in Atlanta, one of the most surveilled cities in the country.
In the last presidential election, Home Depot’s political action committee (PAC) gave $465,000 to 63 Republican members of Congress who later sought to overturn the election results – a direct attempt to discount the votes of people of color.
SEIU Pension Plans Master Trust Pension Trust has filed similar Racial Equity Audit shareholder resolutions this shareholder season at Apple, Invesco, Pfizer, Comcast, Wells Fargo, and Maximus Inc.