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International food chain responds to blogger's demands, franchisee retracts gift, job protections added

by PageOneQ

"One down and many more to go," said Mike Rogers of BlogActive.com in response to the successful result of pressure on the fast food chain Subway after it was disclosed that a franchisee gave $2,500 to the Yes on 8 campaign. Yes on 8 was successful in removing marriage equality from California's state constitution.

Rogers found the contribution on a list of Yes on 8 contributors compiled by the Human Rights Campaign. "When I saw a franchisee of an international company gave $2,500 to opponents of equality, I immediately knew I would require someone at the company's world HQ to address this."

On Friday, Rogers made three demands of the company, with a Monday deadline:

1. Repudiate the gift.
2. Add sexual orientation and gender identity to the corporation's non-discrimination policy.
3. Give an equal gift to the opposing side.
At the time of the post, Rogers did not indicate the company, choosing instead to approach the company discreetly over the matter.

In a conversation with Rogers today, Subway Director of Corporate Communications Michele DiNello responded to the three demands.

LETTER SENT TO FRANCHISEES WORLDWIDE, GIFT REFUNDED

"We spoke to the franchisee, I have a letter I am going to email you that we are sending out, not only to him, but it occurred to me after chatting with him that there that there may be others who don't understand what the policy is, so we will be sending to our franchisees and developers -- around the world -- the policy regarding political donations," DiNello told Rogers.

"It has been brought to the attention of [Subway parent company] Doctor’s Associates Inc. that you have made a contribution to a politically oriented organization. It is our understanding that you intended this solely as a personal contribution and that you were not intending to make any representation on the part of the SUBWAY® brand," The company wrote in response to the gift made by a Merced, California location of the chain. The store is located inside the popular Merced Mall. Photo: Denver Prop 8 protest by Nick Cargo.

Explaining the company's position the letter continued, "You should also be aware that your franchise agreement prohibits your use of the SUBWAY® trademark as part of your business or corporate name. Further, it states that you agree to '...not use the Trademark in a manner that degrades, diminishes, or detracts from the goodwill of the business associated with the Trademark' and 'to promptly change the manner of such use if requested to do so by us.'"

The franchisee, explained DiNello, has called Yes on 8 and asked for a refund of the gift. The company, she indicated, would have no control if an individual franchisee gave a personal gift to a political cause. The company has a history of contributing to various causes supported by the LGBT community including food for charitable events.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY ADDED TO DISCRIMINATION POLICIES

"We are changing the discrimination policy language and that includes anything we add through headquarters human resources, not just in the field," said DiNello. "The company used the exact language you gave us," referring to BlogActive's request to add both 'sexual orientation and gender identity.'"

"This is a textbook example of how a company should react when they realize that one of its operating units has done something wrong. What was outrageous behavior by one franchisee has resulted in a letter to owners of 30,000 stores and a corporate policy change for the better," said Rogers, "I am particularly happy that the company added both sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected individuals under the corporate non-discrimination policies.

Rogers addressed those critics who said the international chain, with over 30,000 outlets, was the wrong target, when it was the actions of one franchisee that were wrong. "You know, they don't have any problem associating themselves with the franchisee when the checks roll in," he replied.

With over 30,000 outlets operating in more than 85 countries, Subway is the second largest food chain worldwide, raking second only to McDonald's.

On his original blog post, Rogers wrote, "We have a handle -- a handle on a spigot of money. Mess with the gays and watch the 'pink wrath' slowly twist the spigot until they're at the table begging for forgiveness." At Subway the spigot is fully open.

[Rogers is also publisher of PageOneQ.]









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Originally published on Tuesday November 18, 2008.


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