Category Archives: Women’s Circle to Resist Trump

Why TOMS is taking a stand to end Gun Violence

The day after a gunman opened fire at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, California, on November 8, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie was in the back seat of a car on the way to his office when his wife, Heather Lang, called. “She was emotional–the shooting was 20 minutes from our house–and she said she wasn’t going to take our [4-year-old] son to school; she didn’t feel safe anymore,” Mycoskie says. “She said she was tired of thoughts and prayers and no action–we had to do something.” He pulled out his laptop in the car and drafted “the most intense email I’ve ever written” to the board of directors at TOMS and to the brand’s CEO, Jim Alling (who took over after Mycoskie stepped down in 2015). In it, he made the case for TOMS taking a stand on ending gun violence–and in the process, overhauling the giving model that made the brand famous in the first place.

Having founded a brand that’s become synonymous for corporate giving and social engagement since it launched in 2006, Mycoskie is highly attuned to pressing societal issues and the role that business can play in finding solutions. TOMS has given shoes to over 86 million people to date through its signature buy-one, give-one model (though the efficacy of using this method to address systemic poverty has been questioned over the years). Through the sale of its sunglasses, the company has helped finance eyesight restorations for 600,000 people, and proceeds from coffee, offered at its retail stores since 2014, have delivered clean water to communities where the beans are grown. Mycoskie remains confident in TOMS’s ability to make an impact in these areas, and cites the brands’ loyal customer base as evidence that people want to support companies that take a stand on social causes.

[Photo: Toms]

But delivering shoes to those who don’t have any and restoring eyesight to people who can’t see are missions that are hard to object to. They’re not political. As a brand, TOMS never has been. “I’m a Christian guy from Texas; my belief in starting TOMS was that we have a responsibility to take care of our neighbors,” Mycoskie says. That message has resonated across the political gulf in the U.S.: The company surveys its customer base regularly, and every time, the split comes back even: 50% Democrat, 50% Republican.Taking a stance in the gun violence debate represents a radically different approach for TOMS, although in Mycoskie’s mind, it’s in line with the company’s original mission. “This is a human issue,” he says. “It’s become political, but ending gun violence is about making a better world, which is what we’ve always been about.”

On November 12, Mycoskie announced his idea to Bain Capital, the private equity firm that’s owned a 50% stake in TOMS since 2014: TOMS would donate $5 million to nonprofits working to end gun violence (including Everytown for Gun Safety, Faith in Action, March for Our Lives, and Moms Demand Action), use its platform and social network to call on lawmakers to pass universal background checks, and permanently alter its giving model to prioritize issue-based efforts of this magnitude going forward. He was done avoiding politics. “If we have this much power as business leaders, we have to use it,” he says.

It was a lot for Bain executives to absorb. They were not opposed, Mycockie says; one of the firm’s partners is among the top contributors to Everytown for Gun Safety, and TOMS’s board had already been meeting with consultants for two years to discuss how the brand could evolve its approach to addressing social issues. But Mycoskie’s End Gun Violence Together initiative presented significant risks for the company.

Gun violence is one of the most polarizing and politicized issues in the U.S. today. Even though studies have found that 90% of Americans support universal background checks, advocacy efforts around ending gun violence tend to get pulled to the extremes. “Any mention of ending gun violence gets spun as, ‘You’re going to take away our guns,’” Mycoskie says. Few brands have taken a leadership position on the issue, and those that have, have faced opposition. When Delta rolled back a pre-existing discount for National Rifle Association members, the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature threatened the airline carrier with cancelling a tax break that was saving them millions on jet fuel. Dicks Sporting Goods, which made a statement explaining why it was tightening its gun sales after the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida, lost contracts with firearms companies. Customers in favor of unrestricted access to guns boycotted the companies.

Levi Strauss quietly pledged $1 million in corporate donations in support of ending gun violence in September. When Mycoskie called Levi’s CEO, Chip Bergh, for advice this past week, Bergh told him that engaging on the topic is “a lonely position to take.” He also suggested that Mycoskie line up a security detail for himself. Emotions run high in the gun violence debate, and the risks for high-profile people like Mycoskie who take a stand are significant. Some believe that this is why many country music stars—who arguably would have the most sway in the call to end gun violence–have remained silent on the issue.

[Photo: Toms]

There were more practical risks, too, such as branding and sales: Mycoskie was proposing a complete overhaul of TOMS’s website, advertising campaigns, and in-store displays the week before Black Friday and the busiest time of the year for any consumer brand. “We had this whole thing lined up with fluffy slippers for the holidays,” Mycoskie says. He proposed swapping that out for “End Gun Violence Together” imagery, with a link on the website that visitors could click to send a postcard to their elected officials, calling for universal background checks. “We timed it, and it takes 22 seconds,” Mycoskie says. He hoped that “maybe after that, [they’d] decide they like what we’re doing and take a look at the shoes.” It’s not exactly a product-first approach.

While managing his family’s evacuation of their Topanga, California, home due to wildfires, Mycoskie spent the next few days on the phone with his partners at Bain and with his team at TOMS, who pitched in overtime, and last Tuesday, he got the sign-off he needed.

Today, just 12 days after Mycoskie received that phone call from his wife, the TOMS website has been redesigned to promote the End Gun Violence Together initiative. All of TOMS’s in-store displays–from Austin, Texas, to the Mall of America in Minnesota–will amplify the brand’s new direction. The company is bolstering security at retail outposts in more pro-gun regions, and anticipating that some customers will drop the brand entirely. But he’s also hoping the initiative starts a conversation. “We want to educate people that ending gun violence doesn’t mean taking away guns–it starts with passing universal background checks, which would keep domestic abusers, terrorists, and felons from buying weapons,” he says. “Right now, you can be on the terrorist watch list and walk into a store and buy an AR-15. I don’t think anyone thinks that’s a good thing.” He wants the phrase “universal background checks” to lodge in people’s mind as a common-sense goal to keep citizens safe. Meanwhile, the file-sending company WeTransfer has dedicated $1 million in advertising space on its platform to the campaign, which WeTransfer estimates will reach 40 million people during the holidays.

TOMS knows that it’s likely to lose consumers who would rather see the brand steer clear of politics. But Winter Minisee, a 17-year-old from Riverside, California, who helped organize the National Youth Walkout, thinks that the initiative might win the company a new audience. “People are always trying to figure out how to market to young people, but we’re waiting for brands that reflect our needs,” Minisee says. Over 1 million people participated in March for Our Lives, the protest against gun violence that was led primarily by students from Parkland, and 1 million young people walked out of their classrooms during the National School Walkout soon after. In the midterm elections, she says, young people who could vote “turned out in numbers never seen before.” These are the people truly leading the charge on ending gun violence, and Minisee and her fellow youth leaders are energized by companies like TOMS using their political and financial heft to support them.

As for Mycoskie, after a whirlwind seven days of developing and implementing an initiative and a new direction for the company, he’s building out a list of other CEOs and brand leaders he might contact to form a coalition around the issue. But that might be a task for another week. “I’m not going to be calling people up on Thanksgiving Day,” he says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company’s Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.



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Post Cards to Voters for Election Run-Off

Senate Runoff on November 27

Mississippi voters will be going to the polls again this month.  No candidate received more than 50% of the vote in their Special Election for the unexpired term of the U.S. Senate seat which was vacated earlier this year.

Another election. Right around the holidays. When it is reasonable to expect voters are fatigued with campaigns. Runoff election turnout is always abysmal. I can only imagine how low the numbers will be this time.

But, it’s not for a local office. It’s for the U.S. Senate. Low expectations and a distracted/overconfident opposition are key ingredients for an upset Democratic victory. The extra ingredient: your postcards to voters.

Former Congressman and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy could be another Democrat serving in the Senate. Fun, friendly, handwritten election reminders will be so unexpected. They’ll fill mailboxes across Mississippi with the kind of “magic” that has helped flip seats for 19 months where people least expected it. (And, as a bonus, the name Mike Espy is short enough to write easily.)

Yes, you will hear people say all the time that Mississippi cannot be won by Democrats. But, look at how close statewide elections have been in Georgia and Florida. Look at the many elections won by Democrats in unlikely places with razor-thin margins.

If you have time, postcards, and postage to write to at least 5 voters this week, we need you.

Click here for details.



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Get Involved NOW!

Every Wednesday, there is a ‘training’ to help you learn how to text, how to canvass, how to phone bank – how to HELP!  There is still a lot you can do.

Come find out what you can do to help flip red to blue.

Drop by and if you can, please let us know you’re coming.  Email to napavalleydems1@gmail.com with your name and contact info.  Bring your SmartPhone, tablet, or laptop, plus charger — you may learn to textbank or do some phonebanking,  write a postcard, or who knows?!

Don’t sit by and fret.  Roll up your sleeves and jump in.

434 Montgromery St. 5:30 – 7:30

Check out the event(s)



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NOT TOO LATE: Make Your Voice Heard on Kavanaugh

It’s not too late to weigh in with Senators on how they should vote down this highly flawed nominee. (202) 224-3121 is the phone number for the Senate switchboard, or you can try calling individual senators at the numbers below:

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) Phone: (202) 224-2523
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) Phone: (202) 224-4521
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Phone: (202) 224-6665
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) Phone: (202) 224-3954
Sen. Claire McCaskill  (D-MO) (202) 224-6154
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (202) 224 2043



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League of Women Voters: Upvalley Candidate Events

From the League of Women Voters of Napa County. For more information, please contact LWVNapa@gmail.com.

The League of Women Voters of Napa County is holding two election forums in UpValley. The first program is for candidates for mayor and city council in the town of St. Helena. The forum will take place on Wednesday, October 10th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, at the Upper Valley College Campus, 1088 College Avenue, St. Helena. Hear the two candidates for mayor and two candidates for city council and ask your questions. Spanish translation using headphones will be provided by UpValley Family Centers. Also learn about the state propositions and local TOT taxes in English and Spanish. Voter registration available.

The next election forum will be held in Calistoga and will feature candidates for city council (three candidates for two seats) and mayor (incumbent unopposed). The forum will be held at the Elementary School Cafeteria, 1327 Berry Street, Calistoga. Hear the candidates and ask your questions. Spanish translation using headphones will be provided by UpValley Family Centers. Also learn about the state propositions and local TOT taxes in English and Spanish. Voter registration available.

Both programs will include time to learn about the 11 state propositions and local TOT tax measures. You may also register to vote there.

What: Election Forum – Candidates for St. Helena Mayor and City Council

When: Wednesday, October 10th, 7:00–8:30 pm

Where: Upper Valley College Campus, 1088 College Avenue, St. Helena

Hosted by: League of Women Voters of Napa County

Description: Four candidates will talk about why they are running and answer questions from the audience. Spanish translation using headphones will be provided by UpValley Family Centers. Learn about the state propositions and local TOT taxes in English and Spanish. Voter registration available.

What: Election Forum – Candidates for Calistoga City Council and Mayor

When: Wednesday, October 17th, 7:00–8:30

Where: Elementary School Cafeteria, 1327 Berry Street, Calistoga

Hosted by: League of Women Voters of Napa County

Description: Three candidates for city council and the incumbent mayor will talk about why they are running and answer questions from the audience. Spanish translation using headphones will be provided by UpValley Family Centers. Learn about the state propositions and local TOT taxes in English and Spanish. Voter registration available.



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League of Women Voters: Napa Candidate Events

From the League of Women Voters of Napa County. For more information, please contact LWVNapa@gmail.com.

The League of Women Voters of Napa County is holding two candidate events in Napa. The first is an Election Forum for the Napa City Council race, to take place on Wednesday, October 3rd, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, at the Napa County Library Community Room, 580 Coombs Street. This is a hot race, with six candidates running to fill only two seats. Spanish translation will be provided using headphones. Bring your questions.

The next event is a Meet-and-Greet for college trustee candidates. Six candidates are running, two each for Napa Valley College Districts 2, 3, and 4. The program will be held on Thursday, October 4th, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, at the Napa Valley College’s McPherson Library Community Room. Bring your questions.

Both programs will include time to learn about the 11 state propositions and local TOT tax measures. You may also register to vote there.

What: Election Forum – Napa City Council Candidates

When: Wednesday, October 3rd, 7:00–8:30 pm

Where: Napa County Library Community Room, 580 Coombs Street, Napa

Hosted by: League of Women Voters of Napa County

Description: Six candidates will talk about why they are running and answer questions from the audience. Spanish translation will be provided using headphones. Also learn about the state propositions and local TOT tax measures.

What: Meet-and-Greet – Candidates for College Board of Trustees,
Districts 2, 3, and 4

When: Thursday, October 4th, 7:00–8:30

Where: Napa Valley College’s McPherson Library Community Room,
2277 Napa-Vallejo Highway, Napa

Hosted by: League of Women Voters of Napa County

Description: Five of the six candidates will talk about why they are running and answer questions from the audience. There will also be time to talk with candidates one-on-one and to learn about the state propositions and local TOT tax measures.

 



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Ask Senators to vote down Kavanaugh

Please call tonight !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Below are the 10 Republican Senators who have not pledged their votes for Kavanaugh yet.

Please call these senators’ offices NOW and urge them NOT to confirm Judge Kavanaugh.

Maine Senator Susan Collins: (202) 224-2523
Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy: (202)224-5824
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker: (202) 224-3344
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake: (202) 224-4521
Wyoming Senator Michael Enzi: (202) 224-3424
Louisiana Senator John Kennedy: (202) 224-4623
Oklahoma Senator James Lankford: (202) 224-5754
Kansas Senator Jerry Moran: (202) 224-6521
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski: (202) 224-6665
Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse: (202) 224-4224



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Take Action NOW on Kavanaugh Hearings

Action: call your MOCs and Grassley’s office and demand transparency and postponement of the hearings until the documents are released and made public. Also tweet at all the GOP members of the committee with #whataretheyhiding and #kavanaughhearings
@SenJohnKennedy
@MikeCrapo
@SenThomTillis
@SenFlakeStaff
@SenTedCruz
@SenMikeLee
@BenSasse
@JohnCornyn
@LindseyGrahamSC
@OrrinHatch
@ChuckGrassley
Senator Chuck Grassley’s D.C. number is 202-224-3744
The lines are clear, and not enough are calling. The Judiciary Committee number is: 202.224.5225.



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