Dear Companies Leaving Mississippi Over HB 1523: Stop.
by Catherine Arjet
Recently PayPal announced that the company has canceled its expansion in North Carolina due to a “Religious Freedom” bill that closely resembles Mississippi’s own HB 1523, which effectively allows anyone (including state employees acting as agents of the state) to discriminate against a person who acts against the employee’s religious or moral beliefs. PayPal is not alone in this. Many other companies and even some state and city governments have either pulled out of expansions in North Carolina and Mississippi, or restricted employee travel there on the company dime.
While I appreciate the sentiment of protesting this bill, I really wish they would stop. It’s doing more harm than good. What I believer these businesses and organizations are trying to do is boycott Mississippi and North Carolina to shame them into revoking the bill. What they are actually doing, though, is hurting Mississippi’s already horrible economy even more and hurting economically disadvantaged people, whom Governor Phil Bryant and the rest of the Mississippi legislature have already proved they could not care less about. To be clear, I’m not talking about artists and musicians cancelling trips here; I think that’s just fine. I’m talking about companies leaving Mississippi and taking jobs with them.
Take, for example, Nissan. The car company recently signed an open letter condemning the bill. If instead of doing that, they had moved the manufacturing plant out of the state (I know that would have taken a lot of time and money, but just in a hypothetical scenario), can you imagine how many people would have lost their jobs? Sure, the state of Mississippi would have lost tax dollars, but the effect on the individuals would have been life altering. This is not worth a protest that probably won’t work. The state government has proven time and time again that they are not willing to put people ahead of politics and fix our failing economy. They demonstrate this by not taking measures to fully fund the public schools so Mississippi can have an educated workforce to attract new business, and by not expanding Medicare so entrepreneurs can quit their jobs to start small businesses without losing health care. Maybe I’m just being overly cynical, but I think people leaving, or not coming to Mississippi in the first place is doing far more harm than good.