2021 Open Letter of Tennessee Businesses Against Discrimination
Tennessee is a great place to do business. As we work to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still have one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, and companies in many sectors are expanding and hiring. Business interest in relocating to the state remains high, and we continue to build thriving sports, tourist, and convention business across the state. Our economy is proof that our business-friendly legislative agenda is the right approach, and one that benefits all of the state’s citizens.
However, one thing continues to concern companies: the state’s reputation on inclusion and diversity as it relates to our ability to attract, nurture, and retain talent and tourism business.
Tennessee’s future growth and innovation rely on the state being open and welcoming to everyone. Policies that signal that the state is not welcoming to everyone put our collective economic success at risk.
Our businesses strongly embrace diversity and inclusion because we want everyone who works for us or does business with us - and their families - to feel welcome and safe as their authentic selves. Fairness, equal treatment, and opportunity are central to our values because we care about our employees and the customers we serve. These values also directly affect our bottom lines: Inclusive business practices and communities lead to more productive and engaged employees, more creativity, increased customer satisfaction, and improved competitiveness.
We ask that lawmakers not pursue legislation that would target or exclude LGBT people of all ages. We need our workers and their families – including any transgender members of their families – to feel welcome. We urge policymakers to remain committed to the values of innovation and growth that we all share.
Any movement of these exclusionary bills is particularly troubling while we are dealing with so many other pressing workforce and economic concerns amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Overwhelming empirical evidence shows that discrimination is bad for business, bad for economic competitiveness, and bad for the state. In challenging economic times, we can’t support our state putting energy behind anything that could make us less innovative or competitive.
TN Small Business Signers
Amazon: “Amazon values our continued partnership with Tennessee as it is a great place to do business and has a talented workforce. We have a long history of supporting equality and we’re opposed to laws that discriminate or encourage discrimination. Amazon strongly encourages Tennessee to revisit any laws that may harm the LGBTQ community so that the state can not only be a premiere location for business investment, but also be a leader in diversity and inclusion.”
Dell: “As a company, we are always striving to attract the best and brightest, and to help our team members thrive. A big part of that is making sure that every person on our team feels that they are welcome at work, that they’ll be treated with dignity, and that they’re valued for who they are. That’s something we’ve worked hard on for many years. But one thing we’ve learned over the past several years, especially in a very tight market for talent, is that we have to think of the 360-degree, full life of our team members and their families. If they feel safe and included at work, but their spouse or their kids don’t feel safe and included in their daily lives, it takes an enormous toll on our team members. We care about that because we care about them, and we also care because it presents us with an enormous risk from the perspectives of productivity, recruitment, and retention.
In thinking about the daily lives of our team members and their families, each of the controversial bills being presented for vote against the LGBTQ+ community, is unjust and does not align with our core people values. Values that say that we treat others equally, and with dignity and respect. Currently TN representatives are voting on several bills against this community and as a business with operations across the country, we can attest that in states that make efforts to be inclusive and welcoming to everyone, this is where our team members grow and thrive, along with their families. When our team members grow and thrive, so does Dell Technologies.”
Pilot: “Pilot is committed to building a diverse and inclusive company, and to actively participating in efforts across the state to ensure that every Tennessean has the rights and dignity we all want for our families. We categorically oppose legislation and legislators that seek to harm or exclude LGBT people, when we should instead be expanding legal protections for our LGBT family and ensuring that every Tennessean has safety and an opportunity to thrive with pride.”
Mars Petcare: “At Mars, we believe our business and our community are at their best when we embrace and celebrate all people. We firmly believe that everyone is equal and that every person deserves to be treated with respect, dignity, and fairness. We value our presence across the state of Tennessee and continue to invest here as it has been a great place to do business. Discrimination has no place in our business or our laws. We strongly oppose any bill that would negatively impact our entire community and the thriving business environment that we currently have. We respectfully urge the legislature to reject and Gov. Lee to veto any such bills.”
OpEd put out by Mars Petcare parent company Sustainable Food Policy Alliance Corporate leaders: Companies should work against anti-LGBTQ bills in Texas, other states
Warner Music Group: “WMG is proud of its longstanding presence in Tennessee. The continued success and growth of our business here depends on our ability to recruit and retain a best-in-class, diverse workforce. We often receive questions about whether Tennessee is a welcoming and inclusive place to live for the LGBT community. These bills send a clear message that LGBT artists, songwriters and employees are not welcome.”
Nashville Soccer Club: “As a major league sports club in Major League Soccer, we carefully selected diversity and inclusion as two of our core values as an organization. We cannot and do not condone discrimination of any form, or support legislation that explicitly or implicitly allows discrimination against the LGBTQ community and their families. Our team and we believe our city, should be open to all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ethnic origin, and race, and we stand as proudly with the LGBTQ community as we do with all other communities.”
Diversity Builder, Inc: “We affirm that Tennessee is a welcoming state where we value and celebrate difference. We encourage the people of Tennessee and its legislature to protect workers from discrimination based sexual orientation and gender identity, which are protected classes under the category of sex in federal law.”
Music City Roots: “We are committed to diversify in all that we do: In our team, in our community and in our entertainment offerings. Let freedom ring.”
COL Jennifer Pritzker: As someone with deep roots in Tennessee, I was excited to make this state the home of my family’s private trust company. Our team has had a great experience working with the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions, and I have always felt welcome by that Department, and all who work there. Under the governor at that time, Tennessee presented itself as an inclusive place that would continue to welcome people of all backgrounds. Yet now, with the currently proposed and recently passed anti-LGBTQ legislation - 15 filings this year alone and more than 70 filed since 2015 - Tennessee is clearly not the friendly, inclusive state for business as I was led to believe.
As a transgender woman, these unnecessary and hurtful laws are personal to me. But as a businesswoman, my larger concern is the impact they will have on Tennessee’s reputation and, ultimately, economic well-being, as businesses and tourists turn elsewhere. No state benefits from the perception that it is an intolerant and unwelcome place for people of different backgrounds, and it alarms me gravely to see this state vying for the title of least inclusive in the nation. As a result, Governor Lee and a majority of the State Legislators are creating an environment that will force me to consider moving my family’s business out of Tennessee. Furthermore, given that many families have at least one relative identifying as LGBTQ, I suspect other families will also consider moving out of Tennessee – and, when evaluating it for purposes of domiciling a private trust company, will not choose this state for the same reasons.
As a retired Colonel in the U.S. Army, and a longtime conservative with hopes for resuming my support for the Republican Party, I also find these laws un-American and anything but conservative. The government should not be censoring teachers, and forcing businesses to hang stigmatizing signs outside bathrooms just because the state’s political leaders deem some people “abnormal.” Be aware, this opens the door to all kinds of discrimination: against women, people of color— your sisters, daughters, neighbors, friends. Anyone political leaders decide is “lesser than”, “different than” or “unworthy of equal protections under the law”.
Many of us feel deceived and defrauded by these developments, having been enticed to do business in the state under the false pretense that it would remain inclusive. If the legislature insists on embracing division and exclusion, we may have little choice but to pull our business out, harming workers and their families the most. I implore this state’s political leaders to embrace unity, and the economic interests of all Tennesseeans.
Jennifer N. Pritzker
President & CEO, TAWANI Enterprises, Inc.
Colonel (IL), IL ARNG (Retired)
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired)
Dewey Comedy Productions, LLC: “We are committed to inclusivity and equality. All folks deserve dignity, respect and spaces to be freely and fully themselves. Legislation and legislators in opposition to the LGBTQ communities are dangerous and damaging to the people who need an expansion of protections, not the removal of such. We will continue working towards creating spaces that align with these beliefs and celebrate all of our differences.”
Concord: “The creative community in Nashville is essential to the state’s culture and economy. It is a community that was built on inclusiveness and continues to thrive because of it. Concord will continue to speak out against the signing of any legislation into law that does not reflect the type of inclusiveness that Concord believes supports our employees, artists and other stakeholders.”
Robin Road Trust Company : “Robin Road Trust Company believes in inclusivity for all people, we stand proudly with the LGBTQ Community to fight any discrimination.”
Geographic Breakdown of Signers:
Corporate/Statewide Signers: Amazon, Bird, BMG, The Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival Castle, including The Bonnaroo Farm, The Bonnaroo Works Fund, AC Entertainment, C3 Presents, Live Nation; Retail Group, Central BBQ / RSCB Holdings, Cummins, Discovery Network, Inc., Diversity Builder, Inc., ENA, Fairfield by Marriott Nashville Downtown/The Gulch, Frothy Monkey, Genesco Inc., Good People Collective, Google Fiber, Kobalt Music Group, Lyft, MediCopy, Nashville Soccer Club, Nissan North America, Inc., Peloton Interactive, Inc., Pfizer Inc., Pilot, Robin Road Trust Company, Ryman Hospitality Properties, ServiceSource International, Inc., Squadron Capital, Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, including member companies Danone North America; Mars, Incorporated; Nestlé USA; and Unilever United States, Tennessee Business Roundtable, The Turnip Truck, Vanderbilt University, Warner Music Group
West Tennessee: Architecture Inc., Blue Monkey Ent LLC, CHOICES – Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Cooper-Young Community Association, Danielle Tipping, Psy.D, PLLC, First Congregational UCC Church, Friends For Life, Harmony Coaching & Consulting, Law Office of Ben Israel, Pretty Useful Co., Spay Memphis, The Beauty Shop Restaurant, The Working Law Firm, Utopia Animal Hospital
Middle Tennessee: 8&R, 11Seventy, ADL Southeast, Anchor Employment Services, Inc., Angelfish Arts, Anne-Marie Zanzal Coaching, Any Lab Test Now, Any Old Iron LC, Associated Urologists of Nashville and Nashville Men's Health, Axis7 Enterprises, LLC, BAM! Social Business, LLC., Batch, Be Truly Social, Belcourt Theatre, Bianca Paige Awareness Network, The Brandagement, Brinnovate LLC, Butcher & Bee, Cadenhead Design, Chady Property Management, Clemmons & Clemons, PLLC, Clifton+Leopold, Comstasis, LLC, Conexión Américas, Connect, Culture Shift Team, D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe, DL Bradford Interiors and Design LLC, DOG AND A DUCK, Doggie Doo’s, Franklin Pride TN, G Squared Wireless, LLC, Good Neighbor Festivals, Good People Collective, LLC, Hair Vibes/Hair by Brandy, Harbin Hollow, LLC, Hawley-Rooks Real Estate Team, Holliman Psychotherapy Services, Home Run Pet Care, Hyatt House Nashville at Vanderbilt, Hyatt Place Nashville Downtown, Icon Tattoo & Body Piercing, Inspired Concepts and Events, It City Entertainment, James Covington, Realtor, Jane Kilmer Therapy, Jay Kill Events, Johnson Squared Consulting LLC, Jonathan Davis, Kaleidoscope Vapor, Kevin Hackney Real Estate, KKirton STRP, Knoxville Behavioral & Mental Health Services, Law Office of Alan Fister, Law Office of Kevin Teets, Leven Works, Living Well Counseling Center, PLLC, Lloyd McDonald USHealth Advisors, Lovejoy Weddings, Main Event Productions, LLC dba Legacy Farms dba A Catered Affair, Manicured Lawns, Matt Dillman - Realtor, Reliant Realty, Melo Green Botanics LLC, Mercy Lounge, LLC, Miriam's Promise, Momentum Counseling, LLC, MP&F Strategic Communications, Music City Roots/Roots Radio, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Business Coalition, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, Nashville in Harmony, Nashville Scene/ FWPublishing, Nashville Symphony, Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, No Quarter, Noah E. Spiegel Consulting, Old Town Trolley Tours of Nashville, Pape Ventures, Inc., Pawsitive Pet Care, Peckers Bar & Grill, Perennial Design Studio, Play/Tribe/Suzy Wong's, The Rabbit Hole VR, Radiant Health Institute, Rager Adolescent Health, PLLC, Ray Rico Freelance, LLC, Focus Magazines (Memphis & Nashville), Ron Sanford Productions, Rubenfeld Law Office, PC, Rustic Restaurants, LLC dba Margot Cafe and Bar, S&L Companies, LLC, S&L Solutions, Sara Ray Interior Design, Shakti Power Yoga, Sifted, Simply With Dawn S Corp, Sinema, SkillSet Coaching & Organizing, Social Link, Soles4Souls, SolomonWood, LLC, Southern Fatty Media, LLC, Southport Solutions, LLC, Taylor Made Plans, The Lipstick Lounge, The RayNa Corporation, The Siraaj Agency, Thistle Farms, Tinney Contemporary Gallery, TNB-Fitness, Tolbert Marketing and Events, Tonda McKay Photography, Weatherford Enterprises LLC, Welty Law Office
East Tennessee: Christina R. Perkins, LCSW, Stark Business Optimization LLC, Vapor Max 2 LLC
This letter was organized by the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce..