Vandy professor calls Kroger’s banning of gay newspaper ‘timid and cowardly’
The banning of Tennessee’s largest GLBT newspaper from Nashville area Kroger and Harris Teeter stores has caught the attention of Nashville’s gay chamber of commerce and a Vanderbilt business professor.
On Thursday, June 7 – one week after the May issue of Out & About Newspaper was pulled from Kroger and Harris Teeter stores by officials with DistribuTech - Nashville’s GLBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLBTCC) issued a call to its members to consider grocery shopping alternatives and a Vanderbilt University business professor called Kroger’s actions are “timid and cowardly.”
Dr. Bruce Barry, a professor of Management and Sociology at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management, said he found it hard to believe that Kroger would want the negative publicity associated with banning a gay newspaper from its Nashville stores.
Barry, whose research on behavior at work, including power, conflict, justice and negotiation, has appeared in many scholarly journals and volumes. He also writes about business ethics, workplace rights and public policy issues at the intersection of business and society. He is co-author of three books on negotiation that are used in courses at universities worldwide. His most recent book is Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace.
“This is a depressing story,” Barry said. “It’s hard to believe this is the kind of publicity that Kroger wants.”
Barry added the he will avoid shopping in Kroger’s because of the decision.
“It seems apparent that their ‘agenda’ position as justification for removal of O&AN is contrived and inconsistent,” he said. “Their actions on this are timid and cowardly – an all too common form of corporate paranoia that their customers are too childish to be treated like thinking adults.”
NGLBTCC President John Wade said Kroger and DistribuTech showed poor judgment and did not reflect the diversity shown by the companies’ workforce.
“While there may be evidence that strength of diversity is recognized in some parts of the Southeast such as in Atlanta, where Southern Voice is distributed in Kroger stores, Middle Tennessee is yet again experiencing something different,” Wade said on behalf of the NGLBECC. “GLBT employees of Kroger and Harris Teeter must be wondering how inclusive their employers are in-light of recent actions to remove Out and About Newspaper, Tennessee’s largest GLBT newspaper, from their employers’ stores.”
The mission of the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLBTCC) includes advancement of equality in the workplace.
“We believe that by directing DistribuTech to remove this news source from their stores, these employers are acting in a way contradictory to advancing such equality,” Wade said. “Further, we believe this action impedes potential advancement of a number of our Chamber members – including Out and About Newspaper - and many of the paper’s advertisers.”
A statement issued by NGLBTCC called upon Kroger, Harris Teeter and DistribuTech to honor the contract that Out & About Newspaper representatives signed in late April.
“The Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce calls on Kroger, Harris Teeter and DistribuTech to honor the contract negotiated in good faith between their representatives and Out and About Newspaper,” the statement said. “We call on all parties to engage in a dialogue aimed at a reasonable resolution for all involved. We believe it would be good business and an honorable thing for all parties to come to the table for such discussions and would support these companies’ public statements of inclusion.”
Wade said that until such conversations occur, the chamber would encourage their members and other concerned citizens to give serious consideration to shopping alternatives.
“Because we recognize these companies employ GLBT persons, the Nashville GLBT Chamber regrets the need to take this position,” he said. “It is our hope that this is a situation which will soon be resolved.”