What is the meaning of Pride? Does Pride stand for something? Important questions for Pride as many in our society question ourselves, our culture and our elected leaders. The Washington Blade’s recent interview with a Wells Fargo executive in response to calls that the bank be removed from Washington, D.C.’s Pride parade and Capital Pride’s defense of this corporate sponsor certainly shows us how they view what Pride is: Pride is for sale.
The Blade’s May 31 interview with E.J. Bernacki, Wells Fargo’s vice president for corporate responsibility communications, discussed calls from the activist group No Justice No Pride that the bank be removed from Pride because the bank helped to finance the Dakota Access Pipeline and private prisons. Important issues, but what was so surprising was Capital Pride defending Wells Fargo in the piece, and ignoring the indefensible actions of Wells Fargo that recently came to light.
Wells Fargo’s lending practices are important issues, but let’s not forget that last September Wells Fargo was fined $100 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) after the agency uncovered the company had opened up to 2 million fraudulent accounts. Former employees have accused the company of creating a culture that encouraged fraud with unrealistic sales goals that if employees did not meet would result in termination. When this scandal came to light, Wells Fargo’s first response was not to take ownership but instead to blame its front line workers and fired over 5,000 of them. This January, Sen. Elizabeth Warren described the company’s actions bluntly that Wells Fargo had worked their employees to the “breaking point” for the purpose of stealing from their customers — an appalling and indefensible act.
None of this seemed to bother Bernie Delia, the president of Capital Pride, who the Blade reported felt criticism of the bank “overlooked” that Wells Fargo has an LGBT nondiscrimination policy, and praised the bank. This also was not the first time Capital Pride defended the bank. Capital Pride’s executive director, Ryan Bos, made a similar defense of Wells Fargo during a community meeting in May. These defenses are nonsensical, a company not actively discriminating against its LGBT workers is not praiseworthy; it is a basic standard to be expected — just as one would expect a bank not to charge customers for financial services they didn’t ask for.
Wells Fargo’s actions are indefensible, nevertheless, Capital Pride kept trying and why it did shows us that in their view Pride and our community are for sale. Capital Pride admits the bank is a gold sponsor that has given at least $15,000 in donations and in-kind contributions.
Capital Pride’s continued defense of Wells Fargo has nothing to do with celebrating our community, it is a blatant money grab. It is appalling that Capital Pride would lower itself in this way and shows why Pride celebrations cannot have corporate sponsors. Their recent actions are a signal to every major bank or large company that if they write a check, Capital Pride will stand with them, regardless of a company’s prior bad acts.
When I wrote in The Advocate that Pride had become too much about big business I understood Pride was for sale, I just didn’t realize it would be this cheap.
Alex Morash is a writer on economic issues based in Washington, D.C., and serves as a vice president of the Gertrude Stein Democrats. Follow on Twitter @AlexMorash.