Tuesday, May 10, 2011

This Metro contractor discrimination brought to you by your Tennessee Chamber of Commerce

Odd that private lobby groups, like the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce, so invested in bringing in more jobs from corporations outside the state have been so instrumental in pushing legislation sailing through the State Senate that increases the chances that companies that have progressive hiring policies might avoid us. Local author of a council bill that would have required Metro contractors to provide workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity reflects on current events:

It wouldn’t be as embarrassing if any of the arguments in support of the legislation held even a drop of water. They don’t. It’s been a campaign for the record books contrived on homophobia.

I am glad Nashville, for a limited time only, was able to show the world we are an inclusive city notwithstanding the acts of the majority of our state’s legislature. Options are being considered.

I look forward to the forthcoming data showing all the increased production of jobs and tax revenue as a result of its passage (at least the jobs saved as a result). The proponents of HB 600/SB 632 owe us that much.

The easy thing to do in this situation is to blame the Republicans. While they deserve a large part of the blame, they could not do what they do if it were not for a red-state culture that promotes or soft-pedals the regressive tendencies of growth and enterprise in Tennessee in the first place. But anyone who expects more from TNGOP is a socket-set short of a full toolbox.

Keep in mind that both the Nashville and Tennessee Chambers of Commerce, two of the more locked-in, mainstream lobbies, oppose the Metro initiative. That makes this prejudiced legislation legitimate. These bills are not just the anomalous products of fringe right-wingers on family and traditional values councils. They were belched from the very center of the wealthy business interests who fight every single regulation that comes down the chute, including ridiculously easy ones like requiring government contractors to obey some rules that nobody outside government has to follow.

On that score, Democrats share some of the blame, and not just those voting for the state bills. Social progressives, in particular, who refuse to see any inconsistency between their embrace of untrammeled, unregulated, unbalanced growth and the private sector's will-to-power that rejects obligations share the blame, too. Maybe if some Davidson County Democrats had fought for a few other healthy constraints on the "business community," the latter might not be so emboldened to do what they will. Naively given inches, they take miles.

GLBT community organizers have done nothing that I can see to work with other groups fighting discrimination and the ill-effects of growth on poor and minority communities. They have gone their own way and hitched their wagons to politicians who seemed to side with them even when they would not fight for others. As the Metro ordinance goes down at the hands of the General Assembly, they have no broad coalition to call upon for assistance. Don't pity them, because they've been good about taking care of themselves. Let them believe they can get along fine without the rest of us.

In the end, until we start approaching Chambers of Commerce as powerful special interests who lobby against workplace reform (that is to say, until we put them in check instead of deferring to their networking opportunities for individual achievement) they will continue to be brutish. Let's hope one day red-state Tennessee, excluding most Republicans, wakes up and reels in some of the latitude it gives these bullies.

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