Trump urges Goodyear tyre boycott after company bans political attire at work

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Aug 19) called for a boycott of Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber in response to a company policy that has deemed political attire, including that of the Trump campaign, unacceptable for the workplace.

“Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS,” the Republican president wrote on Twitter, referring to his slogan “Make America Great Again” that often features on baseball caps worn by his supporters.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump was concerned that the company allowed attire supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other issues related to equality, but not the Blue Lives Matter group backing police officers, or MAGA.

“As far as I’m concerned, Blue Lives Matter is an equity issue. There have been police officers across this country that have been targeted because they wear the badge,” she told a briefing.

“Goodyear needs to come out to clarify their policy.”

Goodyear, which had nearly US$15 billion (S$20 billion) in revenue last year, said a widely circulated image that triggered the controversy was not created or distributed by the company’s corporate group.

“To be clear on our longstanding corporate policy, Goodyear has zero tolerance for any form of harassment or discrimination,” it said in a statement.

To enforce that policy, Goodyear said, it asks employees to avoid “workplace expressions in support of political campaigning for any candidate or political party as well as similar forms of advocacy that fall outside the scope of racial justice and equality issues.”

Shares in Goodyear fell as much as 6 per cent on Wednesday but later pared some of the losses to trade down 2 per cent at US$9.53, with volume at four times the 10-day moving average.

Goodyear is the largest tyre company in North America. Its branded tyres were on 24 per cent of new vehicles in the United States in 2018, according to Tire Business, an industry publication.

US Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown, who represents Goodyear’s home state of Ohio, criticised Trump’s comment.

“It’s absolutely despicable that the President would call for a boycott of an American company, based in Akron, that employs thousands of US workers,” he wrote in a tweet.

McEnany declined to comment when asked if the president’s limousine would still use Goodyear tyres.

Trump’s tweet followed a news report by WIBW, a CBS affiliate television station in Kansas, about a training session at Goodyear’s headquarters that discussed political attire.

Trump, trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls, is gearing up to accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination at the White House next week. He will visit Pennsylvania, which neighbors Ohio, on Thursday.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that she had not seen the tweet, but did not think it would harm the president’s prospects in Ohio.

“I think he’s done plenty for companies in Ohio and elsewhere, far more than Joe Biden ever did,” she said.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, said Trump “spends a tremendous amount of his time in the White House focused on how things reflect on him personally when he should be thinking about how they impact American families.”

Boycotts, like tariffs, are a favourite in Trump’s political and economic toolkit.

In early 2016, before winning the last election, Trump called for a boycott of Apple products until the tech giant agreed to US government demands that it unlock the cellphone of one of the killers in an attack in California.

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