Boycott For What
Episode Description: In today’s social media dominated world we see outraged calls for boycotts when brands, companies, or celebrities take part in actions that reflect tone death opinions, appropriate cultures, or misrepresent reality. But how committed are we to these calls for boycotts? In this week’s episode we recount the role boycotts have played in history and discuss the evolving role that boycotts have in society today.
So what is a boycott? According to Webster, boycott refers to an action in which one engages in a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a person, a store, an organization, etc.) usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions. In today’s world, it feels like there is a call for a boycott almost everyday. Social media has facilitated this given the ease and rapidness of information transfer. But before we dive into the boycotts of today, let’s talk about the role boycotts have played in history considering the fact that social media did not exist back then.
Maddie kicks off the history lesson by recounting the details of her favorite boycott- the Boston Tea Party. Lina D expands upon the history of the Grape Boycott and Cesar Chavez. This is a noteworthy boycott because it reflects how widespread the force of this type of action had and it highlights the length of commitment to a cause. The grape boycotts took place between the 1960’s and continued to surface until the 1980’s. If you want to read the full deep dive given by Lina D in the episode see below. You can also read about other boycotts in this PBS article.
Cesar Chavez & The Grape Boycott:
- He was born to immigrant parents and in 1939 he moved to California with his family to work various fields up and down the state
- He encountered working conditions that he would dedicate his life to change: wretched migrant camps, corrupt labor contractors, meager wages for backbreaking work, bitter racism.
- He drew from the of civil rights movement, insisted on nonviolence, relied on volunteers from urban universities and religious organizations, allied himself with organized labor, and used mass mobilization techniques such as a famous march on Sacramento in 1966 that brought the grape strike and consumer boycott into the national spotlight.
Chavez founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. His union joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in its first strike against grape growers in California, and the two organizations later merged to become the United Farm Workers.
- Although the first contracts were signed in 1966, there were many more years of strife. In 1968 Chavez fasted for 25 days to protest the increasing advocacy of violence within the union. Victory came finally on July 29, 1970, when 26 Delano growers formally signed contracts recognizing the UFW and bringing peace to the vineyards.
- Fast forward to 1984 when Chavez inaugurated an international boycott of table grapes in response to the grape industry’s refusal to control the use of pesticides on its crops
Boycotts played a large role in changing unfair conditions. We take a look at how effective boycotts have been with a special lens to the efficacy of consumer boycotts today. You can also read this article that explores the times that company boycotts work.
- “Boycotts are rarely the precipitating factor for change. Rather, they bring attention to an issue and signal the magnitude and intensity with which a group feels a particular way,” Schweitzer said. “In most cases, a small minority of people call for a boycott that the wider community fails to support by taking substantive action.”
Let’s take a look at some modern day boycotts that have actually worked. In response to the HB2 bill passed by North Carolina, the NBA announced on July 21, 2016, that the league would move its 2017 All-Star Weekend from Charlotte to New Orleans. The loss of revenue to North Carolina was estimated at $100 million. You know that drove some change when this action hit Charlotte’s bottom line. Then in 2017 we saw NFL viewership drop 9.7% with the Kaepernick boycott. In a boycott of Arizona immigration legislation, the liberal polling firm Center for American Progress wrote a 2010 report called “Stop the Conference” that estimated that Arizona lost $45 million in convention business because of a boycott called after passage of SB 1070. This law targeted illegal immigration.
Although historically they’ve been successful we have to consider if social media is watering down the effectiveness since everyone and there momma can demand a boycott. We talk about social media’s role in boycotts by choosing to make an example of recent calls for boycotts. Here is where we give our 2 cents:
- Starbucks: 106,920 mentions of #BoycottStarbucks posted across social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram from Saturday through Monday.
- Said that slavery was a choice on May 1, 2018
- large crowds were expected to greet the debut of Kanye West’s fashion label’s collaboration with Australian sportswear brand 2XU. The line boasted $375 bike shorts and $415 neoprene leggings. A 2016 Yeezy launch in Sydney had found fans lining up around the block, but this time, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, customers were a no-show and the event was shut down after just 45 minutes.
Lina D is a proponent of speaking with your dollars. If you are currently giving financial support to an entity that does not align with your values, you should reconsider. Although you might think that it is only 1 voice, you would be surprised about the impact it can have.
After a review of these events, we ask ourselves “how long are boycotts meant to last?” Listen in to hear our opinions. We also provide our thoughts on what the solution should be long term. What are your thoughts?