Local Wins for Equality and Police Reform
In June, AT&T committed to engage locally across the U.S. to move the needle on equality and police reform.
John Stankey, our CEO, perhaps said it best when it comes to effecting change for equality and fairness: “As we all know, it's easier to get things done locally.”
That’s why our External and Legislative Affairs (E&LA) teams have been advocating to address police reform in the communities where we live and work. And the push is working.
Let’s start with Georgia, where AT&T has played an active part in the Civil Rights Movement since the 1960s. And today, across the state of Georgia we have a significant customer base and more than 20,000 AT&T and WarnerMedia employees.
At the time when Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, was killed by 2 white men while jogging, Georgia was one of the few remaining states that did not have a Hate Crimes Bill.
Hate Crimes are motivated by the victim’s perceived race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Hate crimes laws impose tougher penalties when victims are targeted because of these characteristics.
That’s why our local E&LA teams stepped up to help enact the Georgia Hate Crimes bill. AT&T, Cricket and WarnerMedia each signed a letter of support for the bill, “Pass Hate Crimes Georgia.”
Our AT&T legal department also leaned in and sent a letter to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and several others highlighting our support. And when it came to getting the bill across the finish line, AT&T was instrumental in getting the Senate floor support to help pass the law. AT&T was listed in the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the corporate powerhouses making a strong stand.
“Empathy leads to change. Change starts with us,” said Venessa Harrison, state president, AT&T Georgia. “Businesses have a big role in making it happen. AT&T acknowledges its distinct responsibility to be a part of the solution to achieve equitable justice.”
Continuing the fight
In addition to Georgia, our E&LA teams in other states have been busy working with elected officials and other businesses on the federal, state and local levels to advocate for change to address injustices with law enforcement.
In May, shortly after the horrific killing of George Floyd, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and state legislators passed a police reform bill that bans chokeholds, mandates additional training for officers and increases accountability in use for incidents. AT&T sent letters of appreciation to state elected leaders to thank them for taking a stand.
In Mississippi, as a member of the Mississippi Economic Council, we joined more than 1,000 business leaders calling for quick action to remove the Confederate symbol in the state flag. As a result, a bill was passed by Governor Tate Reeves. The symbol served as a source of division for generations.
In North Carolina, state president Trey Rabon was selected to represent AT&T and provide social justice reform recommendations to Governor Roy Cooper’s newly established Racial Equity task force.
In Utah, we were supportive of the adoption of a law to prohibit choke holds, later signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert.
These are just some of our current efforts. We’ll continue to engage and support police reform proposals in several other states.
In the coming months, we also might ask for your help to contact local elected officials to help pass similar reforms across the nation.
Investing in Equality
We also announced a $10 million commitment to create economic opportunities and to foster upward mobility for Black and underserved communities, who face long-standing social inequities and higher unemployment, all of which are worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. The key focus areas include:
- Workforce readiness
- Employee led local efforts
- Diversifying technology and entrepreneurship through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
We're also working on racial justice efforts with many civil rights organizations, including the following: Color of Change, National Urban League, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and the Equal Justice Initiative.