Tag Archives: JCPenney

Boycott Black Friday

21 Nov

In the wake of an impressively progressive election season, let’s carry the concept of human rights into the massive holiday shopping season. The constant advertising and promotion for us to shop on Black Friday is enough to make me spit up! Making all those deals happen involves horrific and abusive employment practices.

Workers are being exploited like never before.  Walmarts around the country will be open 24 hours and are holding holiday sales on Thanksgiving itself for the first time.  The situation is so bad that Walmart employees are mounting unprecedented protests and the retail giant is pulling out every dirty trick to try to stop them.  Have you no decency Walmart?

Please consider some simple facts before you surge into the shopping madness this weekend.

  • For you to shop at 2 o’clock, someone has to be there at 1:00 to set up the store; or stay after closing the night before so all the special advertising material isn’t shown before the sale begins.
  • The stores and malls that offer shockingly “great” deals for earlybirds have to be staffed by people, people who should have lives of their own.
  • Most of those retail staff are underpaid; many try to support families on wages below poverty without benefits.
  • Before you shout “But they’ll earn great commissions!” please realize that most retailers drastically reduce commission levels (if they offer them at all) starting on the day after Thanksgiving because it’s “too easy” to earn the extra money being run off your feet by extra hoards of shoppers fighting over the last Tickle Me Bieber–I think I just made myself spit up a little with that one.
  • Many of those workers rely on public transportation, which doesn’t operate during the hours it takes to get to the workplace to staff these special sales. So even if they get commissions or overtime (or just extra work hours), those minimal wages get eaten up with cab fare or parking fees paid while they deprive the rest of the family of the one vehicle they own.
  • You don’t need a bargain so badly that it’s worth going to the store at 4a.m., and an extra 5% off the latest Wii isn’t worth your sleep or your time with your family. Really.

So please join me in saying “NO” to abusive sales practices. If you have any other local choices, stay away from Walmart. While you’re at it, avoid JCPenney, which promised to skip Black Friday back in February but has reneged on that oath.

Times are hard, so shop smart and save where you can. But please remember the thousands of people it takes to get that bargain ready for you, and treat them with human kindness this holiday season.

Celebrating LGBTQ History Month: June 18, Ellen DeGeneres

18 Jun

Today we honor and celebrate an international celebrity who uses her voice and fame to make the world a better place. Ellen DeGeneres was born in 1958 in Louisiana. After her parents’ divorce and her mother’s remarriage, the family moved to Atlanta, TX, where Ellen finished high school in 1976. She moved back to New Orleans for college but dropped out after one semester.

She held a number of jobs (including selling clothes at JCPenney, for which she is now the official spokesperson). She also started doing stand-up comedy for fun, quickly realizing that this was her passion. By 1981 she was the emcee at a local comedy club and began touring nationally. In 1982 she was named Funniest Person in America by Showtime. In 1986 she appeared for the first time on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; Carson invited her over for an onscreen chat after her performance, making her the first comedienne in the show’s history to be treated this way.

She had a number of small film roles and was a frequent guest on television shows. In 1994, she starred in These Friends of Mine, renamed Ellen after the first season. Tired of the rumors about her sexuality, Ellen came out as lesbian on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997, followed by a very successful coming out episode for her character on Ellen. Sadly, while the public were interested in the sensation of the coming out, they lost interest in the show’s sensitive portrayal of her exploring her identity and Ellen was cancelled after one more season.

She starred in The Ellen Show for the 2001 – 2002 season. A wonderful, witty show in which her character was out from the beginning, it co-starred major talents like Cloris Leachman and Martin Mull. CBS seemed to have no idea what to do with the show, bouncing it from one slot to another, confusing fans and eventually killing it. (The whole series is available on DVD and streams from a variety of sources; go find it and watch it!) Soon after this she had her award-winning turn as the confused fish Dory in Finding Nemo. She has also hosted the Academy Awards and the Prime Time Emmy broadcast.

In the talk-show void left by Rosie O’Donnell’s departure from daytime, many celebrities launched new chat shows in 2003. Ellen’s was the clear winner, combining her charm, wit, and easy-going nature with guests for a combination that appealed across demographics. While Ellen is seldom as political as she could be on the show, she is open about her life and her family, frequently talking about her wife, Portia de Rossi.

Ellen uses her significant wealth and public voice to support charitable causes. She has won many broadcasting and comedy awards but has also been noted for her contributions to social justice. She makes an enormous difference simply by being the lesbian in everyone’s living room but also recognizes that the power of her celebrity can be wielded to good effect. In 2011, Secretary of State Clinton named Ellen the Special Envoy for AIDS Awareness in recognition for her work in that area.

As an added bonus, Ellen has a wonderful mother, who turned around her shock at Ellen’s coming out to be a staunch advocate for the LGBT community. Betty DeGeneres is the first non-gay spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project and perhaps the most visible member of PFLAG.

Celebrating LGBTQ History on Fathers’ Day: LGBT Parents

17 Jun

When I was growing up in the 70s the gay rights movement was just beginning. While it would occasionally surge onto the news, it was in many ways treated as secondary to other movements like the anti-war protests and Second Wave Feminism. Those early days truly changed the landscape, however, and set the stage for the broader progress we see today. Things really moved backwards in the 80s and 90s, when you consider how easily gay and lesbian references cropped up on 70s TV like Sonny and Cher and the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

One thing that would never get into the press or the programs was the idea of gay parents. Even as laws punishing gay sex slowly were repealed or went unenforced in many places, homosexuality was still used as a legal barrier to adoption or to custody. (Interesting how that shows how obsessed our opponents are with the sexual side of things…) While the legal landscape still has a way to go, LGBT parents are far more visible and that’s a very good thing. It’s hard to fear what you understand, and it’s easy to understand your neighbors.

Starting with famous books like Heather Has Two Mommies, the narrative of gay parents as part of the American fabric has slowly become clearer and clearer. Celebrity parents like Melissa Etheridge and Neil Patrick Harris opening their homes show loving, supportive families that look familiar to most people. Many more movies and TV show LGBT parents and adoptions just as a matter of course. Modern Family does a phenomenal job of normalizing same-sex parenting, and is far more about parenting than making a big deal that the parents just happen to be two dads.  The Kids Are All Right shows that LGBT families are just as normal (and messed up) as any other families – the fact that there are two moms is the least of their issues. JC Penney’s bold new brand is aggressively acknowledging that families come in all flavors with inclusive advertising images (much to the ire of One Million Moms). Even comic books get into the game, with DC’s Apollo and Midnighter adopting Jenny Quantum after their marriage.

Being a parent is hard and being a good parent in a complex world is even harder. We need kids to have strong families and good support; the orientations of the parents are irrelevant. No matter what Mark Regnerus and his funders would have you believe, LGBT folk make great parents, and all the good research supports that wholeheartedly. In fact, same-sex households can turn out kids as wonderful as Zach Wahls. So let’s take time this Fathers’ Day to celebrate the families that often require more intent and face challenges from the narrow-minded no matter how well they work.

P.S. – Let’s also celebrate the straight parents who love and accept their LGBT children unconditionally. Since bullying and abuse of these kids is still a significant problem, a loving home is often the saving grace. Three cheers to the Judy Shepards, Daphne’s Moms, and PFLAG moms and dads all over America.

Hero of the Week Award: February 10, JCPenney

10 Feb

Hero of the Week

What a pleasure to see a corporation earning Hero of the Week instead of Bigot for a change. For TSM, it’s also a bit surprising that the company is JCPenney. This retail chain has made some bad decisions in the past, but seems determined to make amends and move forward as a more humane company. In an effort to rebrand themselves and become more relevant in the American retail market, JCPenney brought on new CEO Ron Johnson last November. He helped revolutionize electronics marketing with the Apple Store during his ten years with that company. His goal is to make sure that JCPenney resonates with what he calls “true American values”: fair play and the golden rule.

In a move to support that effort, he sought out a corporate spokesperson and eventually hired Ellen DeGeneres. The maniacal  mob known as One Million Moms protested that a “family company” would not dare to use a lesbian spokesperson. Ellen spoke out on her show, laughing at the organization and defending JCPenney. CEO Ron Johnson appeared on CBS This Morning and aggressively defended both the partnership and Ellen. Saying that she “perfectly represents the values of America and JCPenney” he acknowledged the right of any person or group to speak their mind and the right of everyone else to ignore them. Stressing that he felt that Ellen interviewed JCPenney far more than they interviewed her, he was grateful that she agreed to come aboard and called her the “perfect person.” He even went so far as to say that he had “no doubts or regrets whatsoever.”

For the balance of the interview, Johnson discussed the rebranding of JCPenney as a friendly and fair company. One impressive move is his determination to end so-called Black Friday sales and hours since they are unfair to workers. “A store should be  part of someone’s life, not consume it,” he said, further indicating that he thinks that to be true for customers and employees both. Bravo to Ellen, Ron Johnson, and JCPenney. Let’s hope their efforts to make in-person retailing more human and humane are rewarded.  Not only will I have to start spending my money at JCPenney, but maybe the bigoted Rick Santorum needs to realize what the fabric of America looks like!

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