A major Warsaw business has asked the leadership of Kosciusko County to watch its step when it comes to passing ordinances and statements that might alienate some members of the community.
The Times Union reports that a letter signed by Zimmer Biomet Chairman and CEO Bryan Hanson and its board of directors was sent to the county commissioners on June 30th—in their words—strongly “requesting that the Kosciusko County Board of Commissioners abandon further efforts to prepare and pass ordinances and declarations that negatively impact the business community’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in the Warsaw area.” They point to recent declarations that Kosciusko County is a Constitutional Rights Sanctuary and a Second Amendment Sanctuary, as well as current proposed action to prohibit or ban the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) here, calling those actions “unnecessary” and “outside of your scope of (the county’s) responsibilities.”
The commissioners responded with their own letter, saying the commissioners “do not believe that it is either factual or healthy to teach our children that ‘the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist.
The letter, signed by all the commissioners, ends with a promise that they have and will continue to—in their own words—“always strive to promote a community consistent with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream”.
What Zimmer Biomet sent to the Kosciusko County Commissioners on June 30th…
“We write to convey Zimmer Biomet’s strong request that the Kosciusko County Board of Commissioners abandon further efforts to prepare and pass ordinances and declarations that negatively impact the business community’s ability to attract and retain the best and brightest talent in the Warsaw area. The recruitment challenges that local businesses currently face are well-known and, as the largest employer in the county, Zimmer Biomet believes that your recent and contemplated actions further jeopardize our ability to continue to effectively compete in today’s global environment.
“In the past year, Zimmer Biomet has increasingly grown concerned over the agenda and priorities established and executed by the Commissioners. For example, we believe your recent declarations that Kosciusko County is now both a Constitutional Rights Sanctuary and a Second Amendment Sanctuary, as well as your current proposed action to prohibit or ban the use of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the county, are unnecessary and outside of your scope of responsibilities. Furthermore, the foregoing declarations are for the most part symbolic and have little practical impact, except for the contemplated CRT ban’s adverse effect on the business community, as explained in this letter.
“We are hopeful that we can find common ground on pure business and economic considerations. One of the fundamental focus areas under the Commissioners’ authority is to foster economic development programs to attract and retain jobs in Kosciusko County, and we assume that you take this responsibility very seriously. As the largest business and employer in the county, Zimmer Biomet is extremely concerned that the imposition of, and the resulting negative publicity associated with, a CRT ban would directly and adversely impact our ability to attract, hire and retain world-class talent in Warsaw. As a leading corporation headquartered in this small community for over 90 years, the policy level actions and pronouncements by the Commissioners and other local governmental bodies have a direct impact on our talent agenda and opportunities. Attracting first-rate talent who will consider moving to our Warsaw site is already quite challenging, so the Commissioners should not compound this problem through unnecessary and highly controversial legislative actions that will only serve to deter a large percentage of potential job applicants, as well as cause many current employees to question their desire to remain in Kosciusko County.
“In addition, as a publicly-traded company, our viability and success are heavily dependent on attracting and retaining our global investor base, which is comprised mostly of institutional shareholders. Together with other prominent corporate sustainability topics such as the environment and climate, a large percentage of our current and prospective investors are now Kosciusko County Board of Commissioners engaging proactively and assertively with Zimmer Biomet on a variety of social issues, including diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. For many institutional and retail investors, companies’ positions, actions and affiliations on these societal issues are dictating where they choose to invest. Based on numerous discussions with our largest shareholders and other members of the investment community over the past year in particular, it is clearly evident that Zimmer Biomet could be penalized significantly in the market for being headquartered in and closely affiliated with a community whose local government has imposed a CRT ban.
“Zimmer Biomet would welcome more opportunities to partner constructively with Kosciusko County and the city of Warsaw to promote equality and social justice for all people who want to live and work here. In our view, this is where our collective energy should be spent to build and grow a vibrant and welcoming community that can be a positive example and thrive for generations to come.
“In closing, Zimmer Biomet and our executive leadership team appreciate you taking our viewpoints into consideration. As you carry out your duties to protect and grow the local economy and promote job creation and retention, we trust that you will make the right decision and abandon any plans to pass an ordinance prohibiting the use of CRT in Kosciusko County and refrain from continuing to advance an agenda that does not support the growth and expansion of business investment in the Warsaw community.”
What the commissioners sent back to Zimmer Biomet on July 20…
“Thank you for your letter of June 30, 2021. We sincerely appreciate your input as an integral and valued member of our community. We look forward to many years of a continued team effort to make Kosciusko County the best that it can be.
“We believe that Kosciusko County is a loving, just, beautiful and family-friendly community that is a tremendous place to attract world-class talent. Indeed, we are working hard right now with our political and business leaders to bring every available dollar to Kosciusko County and promote a robust business and investment environment. In addition to these economic efforts, we believe that this community can have open, constructive and healthy discussions on sensitive issues, as was evidenced by the town hall discussion on July 8, 2021, regarding the Indiana Attorney General’s Parents Bill of Rights and Critical Race Theory. Many people are proud to live here and come here because of such an environment.
“As the executive and legislative body of the county, our interest in this community is not limited to, nor should it be limited to, ‘pure business and economic considerations’ as your letter suggests. While we affirm and reiterate that business and economic considerations are very important to us and the citizens of this county, they are not the sole considerations in the promotion of a thriving, fair, just, healthy and unified community.”
“The definition of CRT, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, can be found here: ‘critical race theory (CRT), intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. Critical race theory (CRT) was officially organized in 1989, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory, though its intellectual origins go back much farther, to the 1960s and ‘70s. Its immediate precursor was the critical legal studies (CLS) movement, which dedicated itself to examining how the law and legal institutions serve the interests of the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and marginalized. (CLS, an offshoot of Marxist-oriented critical theory, may also be viewed as a radicalization of early 20th-century legal realism, a school of legal philosophy according to which judicial decision making, especially at the appellate level, is influenced as much by nonlegal – political or ideological – factors as by precedent and principles of legal reasoning).” See https://www.britannica.com/topic/critical-race-theory (last accessed on July 19, 2021).
“We do not believe that it is either factual or healthy to teach our children that ‘the law and legal institutions in the United States (as they exist today) are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans.’ Indeed, we believe that such ideology promotes unjustified conflict and does more to divide us than unite us.
“In conclusion, please rest assured that we, as sworn defenders of the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution, will always strive to promote a community consistent with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that all would ‘not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character’ and that treats all men as created equal by their Creator. Please call us if you believe we can do anything consistent with these fundamental principles of fairness, justice and equality to help you with recruitment or any other aspects of your business.”