The Business Response to Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act”
On November 2nd, Business for America held a business briefing to discuss the implications of Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” on the business community, as well as potential national fallout. Political and legal experts discussed how the law violates employers’ free speech rights by censoring ideas contrary to government officials’ preferred narrative.
The Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employers (WOKE) Act restricts companies’ private speech, exposes businesses to the threat of employee lawsuits, and sets a dangerous precedent of politicians interfering in long-established employment law practices. The legislation may result in some companies choosing to reduce their presence in the state or exit the state altogether.
Shalini Goel Agarwal, senior counsel from Protect Democracy (which filed for and received a preliminary injunction against the employer provision of the law), cited that the “Stop WOKE Act” violates the 1st and 14th Amendments. “This act is an example of how authoritarian ideas can gain traction and takes a page from the Authoritarian Playbook,” she explained. Protect Democracy outlines three relevant factors in the law:
- Censoring ideas that challenge government officials’ preferred narrative
- Muzzling independent institutions (in this case business)
- Directing outrage toward disfavored groups
One of the plaintiffs in the case is Team Primo, the largest Ben & Jerry’s franchise in the country. Chris Miller, head of global activism strategy at Ben & Jerry’s, pointed out that the law makes it difficult and costly to do business in states that have different rules. He also pointed out how such lawmakers weaponize such laws. “Collectively as a corporate community we should all be concerned about political leaders who are using legislation and instruments of the state to punish corporations whose views they disagree with,” Miller stated. “We all have an interest in ensuring that this kind of political retribution doesn’t become a part of the way in which corporations are regulated.”
Business for America Founder and CEO Sarah Bonk added, “What we’re talking about here is a state government regulating the free exchange of ideas. At BFA, we think your business should have the freedom to foster a workplace culture of your own choosing. We think your businesses should have the freedom to experiment with that — and the freedom to fail. Chilling the free exchange of ideas is a bigger threat to our liberty than ‘wokeness’ could ever be.”
Bringing a center-right perspective, Geoffrey Kabaservice of the Niskanen Center noted that it’s useful to understand that conservatives believe they have been systematically excluded from participating in the nation’s major institutions for years. “That belief has led to a backlash against companies, the mainstream media, and educational institutions who are seen as pushing a radical social agenda.” He added, “Once the party of business, the GOP is steadily moving away from ‘free market big-business-friendly policies’ towards a more cultural agenda.”
If your company has a Florida presence and wishes to demonstrate opposition to this legislation, please join Protect Democracy’s sign-on statement by November 10.
If your company is interested in joining an amicus brief, please contact BFA’s National Policy Director Richard Eidlin. This is open to anyone who employs 15+ people and has some operations in Florida. We’ll convey your interest to the law firm that has tentatively agreed to draft the brief.
For more details and future insights from our speakers, watch the webinar in full on our YouTube channel.