Graci Harkema, the Diversity & Inclusion Director for Founders Brewing Co., has resigned

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Todd, Oct 26, 2019.

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  1. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,997) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society



    Here's the complete text from her resignation letter:
    Related:
     
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  2. Shyla987

    Shyla987 Initiate (106) Jul 18, 2013 Connecticut

    Here's her resignation letter.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
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  4. rgordon

    rgordon Savant (983) Apr 26, 2012 North Carolina

    This is a beer story. How important is that really? The moral here is profound: that belief may a standard in comportment, but not at the expensive of civility; that continued dialogue should always be an unwritten goal in all social endeavor. I think we will arrive at the point, at some point, that good ideas need not be bogged down by bad practice, that business practices will evolve such that merit is awarded and cherished. Just maybe smaller practices can work on a greater scale? Oh well, I believe it.
     
  5. BunsMcGillicuddy

    BunsMcGillicuddy Initiate (38) Aug 12, 2015 Illinois
    Trader

    Woooow!! Talk about going out with a bang. As if things couldn't look any worse the hits just keep coming. She summed up the situation pretty tidily. Confirms Founders is just trying to whitewash this and not interested in making any meaningful changes.

    I'll do my best to make sure no one I know gives them another nickel.
     
  6. VoodooBear

    VoodooBear Defender (667) Aug 25, 2012 Puerto Rico
    Trader

    Those looking for confirmation that Founders is a shitshow and validation that they're not really interested in doing shit to make this situation right: Here it is. It's gotten to the point where this is just too much. Love Founders beers, but we as consumers vote with out dollars and they're not seeing another one from me.
     
  7. bstyle

    bstyle Devotee (464) Apr 27, 2006 Indiana
    Trader

    Seems like an odd time to resign...
     
  8. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    ??? Did I read that right? He’s dedicated his life to Founders since Jan 2019, that’s 10 months.

    Simple, he’s gone either by choice or by pressure. End of story for me, there’s always a bad apple out there you can’t see coming. So at the end he’s resigning and throwing the blame on Founders and he’s the man of virtue?
     
  9. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

    For the record, it's a she.

    What it seems like, at least to me, is that the position was created, and they hired her for it. She was supposed to help with guiding the company to be more inclusive. Now, did local management seemingly ignore her (and outside consultants) and carry on in their established manner, or, was this approved by the corporate overlords?

    Either way, it seems like her whole position was just window-dressing.

    Again, IMHO.
     
  10. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    Hmmm. It’s been done before, plugging a perceived hole with cellophane, I guess it’ll have to run it’s course. But still the questions as she answered stand alone as completely ridiculous. Imo that’s a bit telling.
     
    beertunes likes this.
  11. landrewg

    landrewg Initiate (148) Nov 11, 2008 Michigan
    Trader

    You did not read that right in any way, shape or form. Give it another try.
     
  12. errantnight

    errantnight Meyvn (1,213) Jul 7, 2005 District of Columbia
    Society Trader

    somebody didn’t read the letter
     
  13. errantnight

    errantnight Meyvn (1,213) Jul 7, 2005 District of Columbia
    Society Trader

    Serious question: are you drunk right now?
     
  14. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,414) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    Aaaaand there's the other shoe. Wowzers.

    Notice she didn't weigh in on the discrimination case itself. No, more damning, she condemned Founders for not even caring about it, for trying to save face and win the lawsuit more than address any legitimate concerns.

    This is a well-worded letter, and I have no reason to doubt the authenticity of her actions. I agree with @VoodooBear : anyone who may be on the fence about continuing to support Founders with your dollars, this should be the tipping point. Anyone who intended to support Founders anyway, this likely doesn't change your stance.
     
  15. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    Not quite slick. Her words are her words , the transcript started this thread, remember. It doesn’t absolve her or Founders of anything. If you can judge right or wrong here from a transcript and a resignation letter then good for you. Surely either one or both are wrong, but if you think you have enough information based on such a small sample size you surely more enlightened than most. So why not let this run it’s legal course and let all the facts come out?
     
  16. errantnight

    errantnight Meyvn (1,213) Jul 7, 2005 District of Columbia
    Society Trader

    If you’re asking that last question you’re either not arguing in good faith or you’re not capable of rational thought but I don’t honestly believe you’re looking to me to explain on a beer website the fundamentals of cognition and debate with you.
     
  17. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,731) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Thanks for posting. This is a powerful statement. For those who have trouble reading the small print, three points that jumped out to me:

    1. Founders leadership cares more about the ego-game of winning the lawsuit than the damage they’re doing to their company’s and employees’ reputations
    2. Recommendations made by the Diversity & Inclusion Director, and apparently also PR consultants, have been ignored
    3. She has come to believe that the bosses care more about the optics of having a black woman in the position than the expertise she brings to the table, and thus, is resigning
     
    #17 thebeers, Oct 26, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
  18. ecpho

    ecpho Aspirant (247) Mar 28, 2011 New York

    What do we need to absolve her for?
    You must be one of those "both sides" guys.
     
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  19. errantnight

    errantnight Meyvn (1,213) Jul 7, 2005 District of Columbia
    Society Trader

    On the one hand we have the party accused of discrimination who has gone on to step in it, repeatedly. On the other hand we have a person who says: hey, all that stuff in public, I don’t agree with it, so I’m leaving.

    now, maybe there’s some twelfth dimensional checkers going on here and I’m not ready to throw on my Captain Juror suit and start handing out convictions but this situation really isn’t crying for someone to start arguing: Won’t someone let the
    Obvious Racists figure out a legal defense to see if they can weasel out of this?!

    you can just not throw your hat in with Founders, that’s an option
     
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  20. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    I’m not one to jump into making a definitive decision based on what I’ve read. They'll fight it out in court and the judge will look at all the evidence, and pass judgement. That’s how it works, imagine something so simple, or you can try them on a beer site. Right.
     
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  21. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    Like you have enough information to reach a clear conclusion. No, your jumping to one without knowing what else is out there. You read a few quotes, a resignation letter and you then know all. I’m sure you don’t. So why even have a judicial system when you can convict in public or on a beer site?
     
  22. errantnight

    errantnight Meyvn (1,213) Jul 7, 2005 District of Columbia
    Society Trader

    I’m sorry no one ever taught you critical thinking it’s gotta be rough going through life without that skill.
     
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  23. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,485) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Useless position anyways.
     
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  24. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

    If it was a useless position, why did the company create it? Because they wanted another well-paying position on the flowchart?

    They, at least superficially, thought that the position could help them. But, when you ignore the voice in that position, in addition to well-paid outside consultants, you had your mind made up before you started.
     
  25. CB_Michigan

    CB_Michigan Disciple (368) Sep 4, 2014 Illinois
    Society

    I'd like to provide a little context, based on my experiences in GR and also since Graci and Dave Engbers were kind enough to reach out and have an hour-long conversation with me back in March. Graci was a rising star in Grand Rapids (very well-thought-of, made the Biz Journal's "40 under 40" list, had a reputation as a consensus-builder). Friends who have worked on LGBTQ & other diversity issues described her as tenacious about Diversity & Inclusion, yet savvy enough to effect changes that tangibly improve the lives of all employees at every level of an organization. The thinking was "if anyone can turn things around at Founders, it's her!"

    To see her leave in this way is sad and discouraging, but not entirely surprising. I've no doubt that she has upended her life in the service of trying to (a) make concrete change at Founders, and (b) press the industry as a whole on issues of D&I (developing internal programs, speaking at industry forums, dealing with the fallout of Mr. Evans' lawsuit). And based on the conversation we had, likely running into the brick wall of a refusal to listen over and over again.

    I stopped drinking Founders after Mr. Evans' lawsuit was publicized but always held out hope that they'd demonstrate real progress. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened and seems unlikely in the foreseeable future. Here are my key takeaways of our conversation (aired now in light of Ms. Harkema's decision):

    - Dave Engbers absolutely refused to consider the possibility that the treatment Mr. Evans received could negatively impact his performance. His main defense was that Mr. Evans didn't complain to HR. My response was "if the reaction to his initial complain was to make him responsible for determining the punishment, why would he ever trust HR again?" I never got an actual answer to that question.

    - There was no possibility of settling the suit. At the time, Founders had lost enough accounts to have a noticeable impact on their bottom line. Between that and the lawyers, fighting the suit was going to cost way more than settling, but Dave was committed to the principle. His position was 'What message does settling send to our 700 current employees? Tracy was let go due to performance, that's it. We did the right thing, we did it the right way, and he acknowledged it.' Dave had a complete and total conviction to his interpretation.

    - They asked me what would change my mind about the situation and how they could demonstrate their commitment to diversity. I replied that they really needed to let Ms. Harkema speak in her own voice about the issue. That it had to be authentic and committed to being transparent about her efforts, not just a "we hired a Black lady, so we're diverse" papering of the underlying issues. Then, Dave responded by saying "Graci will have the chance to speak in forums where it's appropriate for her to represent Founders." Dude, you can't even let her address the issue in this conversation? Their side of the chat was 80% Dave, 20% Graci but the irony of this particular exchange gave me little hope that things would get better.

    - Dave didn't seem to think that there was anything wrong with how the company ran. Instead, he thought this whole controversy happened because they failed to publicly respond to the allegations. Apparently their lawyers said they should be quiet, and that's why this became an issue. He said that they had a press release coming out that was a "powerful statement about our commitment to diversity and I think it'll change your mind." Here's the press release, it basically summarizes the response they filed to Mr. Evans' suit. Now, it's one thing to make such statements in a court filing. It's another to publicly throw a former employee under the bus and air a bunch of dirty laundry. I just cannot fathom how anyone would think this is a strong commitment to diversity.

    Between this and other threads, I've said all I care to about Founders or diversity in the craft beer world. I've no interest in the reactions that my posts tend to generate, so I'm checking out once again.
     
  26. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    The rule of law still exists whether you like it or not. This wiill cost millions in court, but you can solve it off a beer site thread, you’ve missed your calling.
     
  27. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    What’s this shit? If I get you in a BIF or whatever I’m gonna send you the shittiest beer I can find.
     
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  28. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,485) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Just because a company does something, doesn’t mean it adds value.

    It’s a relatively small business.... <$50M in sales, less than 150 employees.

    If the position doesn’t sell more beer or reduce its cost of goods, I’m comfortable saying it’s useless.
     
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  29. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

    Great post. Summed up what my (very outside the loop) views are.
     
  30. AElfwine_Nerevar

    AElfwine_Nerevar Initiate (124) Nov 16, 2018 Connecticut

    Because who cares about a sellout brewery that at best makes mediocre beer. Why wait when one can spend their hard earned money buying higher quality local beer right now.

    Also, this idea that "the legal process" is a useful tool for parsing systemic racism is dubious. Certain systems of oppression, racism, and genocide were hardwired into this nation's dna at the founding, and have proven difficult to excise. We had a civil war and it still wasn't until 100 years later that African Americans were given equal rights under the law. Not to mention that the genocide perpetrated against the Native Americans that has never been dealt with and is rarely taught in public schools...but now I'm rambling. The point is that systemic racism is a thing, and that because it is so subtle and pernicious we should be very wary when those in positions of authority and power refuse to even acknowledge let alone honestly confront it.

    Most of us here don't seem to need a legal process to confirm that which can easily be parsed by reading the public proclamations of Founder's lawyers, owners, and PR hacks; i.e. they can't be arsed to acknowledge and address systemic racism. This isn't rocket science.
     
    #30 AElfwine_Nerevar, Oct 26, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
  31. CB_Michigan

    CB_Michigan Disciple (368) Sep 4, 2014 Illinois
    Society

    Just as a point of clarification, Dave Engbers said "700+ employees" and this article (https://mibiz.com/sections/food-agr...ty-and-inclusion-director-founders-brewing-co) states (bolding mine):
     
  32. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

  33. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

    Well, yes, the position could sell more beer, to a wider demographic, if management allowed it to.
     
  34. thebeers

    thebeers Poo-Bah (2,731) Sep 10, 2014 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Here are some of the things we know as fact regarding the situation at Founders...
    • Multiple Founders employees have used the N-word at work and weren’t immediately fired for it
    • A manager claimed under oath that he doesn’t know if the black employee who filed a lawsuit against the company is black — despite the company already stating that he’s black in court documents and in the media. The manager went on to suggest that he needs a DNA test to know if someone is black.
    • Some employees at Founders’ Detroit location are having a protest about racism and homophobia tomorrow
    • After the protest came to light, Founders decided to close the Detroit location indefinitely
    • The Diversity & Inclusion Director that Founders hired in response to the lawsuit has resigned, saying that she believes the company was more interested in having a black front person than in making changes related to diversity and inclusion
    The ongoing legal proceedings may or may not bring new information to light, but a Court of Law is not itself perfect or without certain biases. IMO, there is already enough info out there for customers to make decisions about whether Founders is a company they want to support.
     
  35. craigbelly

    craigbelly Champion (829) Dec 31, 2015 Iowa

    Whew...it looks like a rocky road ahead for Founders. Choose your words and actions carefully. Alot of other employees, distributors, and consumers could also become collateral damage.
     
  36. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,972) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Trader

    Your absolutely right and I agree with you , there is enough info out there to decide if you want to buy Founders beers. I would choose not to buy their beer, but that is my personal decision. The justice system isn’t close to perfect, it’s clear that those with the most money can employ the best or even a complete legal team and out spend the other. But as far as judgements go it’s what we have unless it’s replaced. The rule of law still stands whether we like it or not, and we’re still not privy to all the information.
     
  37. Reidrover

    Reidrover Poo-Bah (3,540) Jan 14, 2003 Oregon
    Society

    This is a strange situation. Why would Founders not get real about the situation? It seems more work to try and cover up and stay the same.
     
    Sabtos likes this.
  38. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,485) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Society Trader

  39. beertunes

    beertunes Poo-Bah (6,420) Sep 24, 2007 Kyrgyzstan
    Trader

    Zero difference. Same boss. When one is owned, one is owned.

    Ya gonna try to tell us that Lagunitas is still the same bunch of adorable stoners?
     
  40. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,485) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Nope....I guarantee Founders is its own P&L, and responsible for delivering business results. As I said, a position either sells more beer or reduces the COGS.
     
    bowzer4birdie likes this.
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