In response to encouragement from bloggers, including social change media site Change.org and LGBT news site The Bilerico Project (bilerico.com), ROCKSTAR Energy Drink is expanding its corporate policies related to LGBT issues. In addition to reaffirming its corporate anti-discrimination and equal opportunity employment policies, which include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, ROCKSTAR has announced that it has included an LGBT component in their company's corporate-wide diversity training and will begin to offer company resources for employees who may want to start an LGBT workplace group.
Additionally, ROCKSTAR will continue to offer domestic partnership benefits to LGBT employees, a company policy that has been in place since ROCKSTAR Energy Drink was founded in 2000. Under this policy, LGBT employees in domestic partnerships receive the same benefits coverage as heterosexual married employees, as well as the same protections afforded under the company's sick leave, bereavement, leave for victims of domestic and sexual violence, and family military leave policies.
"These policies demonstrate that ROCKSTAR is committed to equality in the workplace," said Weiner. "But while corporate policies are one plank in the struggle for equality, we recognize that supporting the LGBT population requires an even greater effort."
To this end, Weiner announced that ROCKSTAR has pledged to give $50,000 to The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, a community-based organization which supports and promotes activities directed at furthering the well being, positive image, and human rights of the LGBT community and its allies in Southern Nevada, near ROCKSTAR's office in Las Vegas.
ROCKSTAR has also committed $25,000 to Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students, and The Trevor Project, a leading national organization focused on crisis and suicide prevention efforts among LGBT youth. Both gifts will be disbursed in 2010.
On top of these donations, ROCKSTAR Energy Drink will contribute $12,500 to sponsor the National LGBT Blogger Initiative, which provides training and support for LGBT bloggers, and pledges to support LGBT-related pride festivals in the future. These contributions are in addition to the $25,000 Weiner recently gave to Project Open Hand, a San Francisco charitable organization that works closely with LGBT communities on HIV/AIDS outreach.
"We're grateful for the opportunity to support the work of these organizations, who are at the forefront of the struggle for LGBT rights in this country," said Weiner. "We are proud to enhance our corporate policies and contribute to these organizations, and we hope that these actions clear up any misunderstanding or misconceptions about ROCKSTAR's support of the LGBT population."
Candice Nichols, the Executive Director of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, said that ROCKSTAR's contribution to the Center shows its commitment to LGBT rights and will be immensely helpful in serving the needs of the LGBT community in its hometown of Las Vegas and throughout Southern Nevada.
"We are pleased to see ROCKSTAR taking bold steps as a company to ensure the dignity and self-worth of LGBT people, both within their own corporate policies and within the city where they are incorporated," said Nichols. "ROCKSTAR's contribution to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada will help our organization continue to provide vital services to the LGBT population of this area, including services for LGBT youth. During these tough economic times, we appreciate the significance of ROCKSTAR's contribution and look forward to working with them as a partner down the road to continue to support the needs of Southern Nevada's LGBT population."
Eliza Byard, Executive Director of GLSEN, said that ROCKSTAR's efforts to expand support for LGBT employees and the local LGBT community are significant steps in the right direction.
"GLSEN is very pleased to have helped reach an agreement that immediately benefits the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, a community center that serves the needs of LGBT people in ROCKSTAR's own backyard," said Byard. "ROCKSTAR seems sincere in its efforts to affirm the dignity of its LGBT employees and the greater LGBT community, and in its recognition of the damage language can cause - damage that GLSEN confronts daily in its work in K-12 schools. We look forward to seeing continued evidence of this commitment in the weeks and months ahead, and to accepting their contribution next year so long as they continue upholding the principles they've publicly articulated."
Charles Robbins, Executive Director and CEO of The Trevor Project, also said that ROCKSTAR is taking the right steps to partner with LGBT organizations.
"The Trevor Project is pleased that ROCKSTAR is moving in the right direction to act as a responsible corporate citizen that truly embraces diversity," said Robbins. "It is important to recognize that the kind of offensive language which ROCKSTAR has now disassociated itself with can be truly dangerous, especially to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth who remain at a higher risk for suicide. Whenever a company or individual supports our work, we know that it is lifesaving, and we look forward to the impact that ROCKSTAR's systemic support will have in our community for years to come."
Michael Rogers, the Founder of the National LGBT Bloggers Initiative, echoed these sentiments. "I'm excited to see that ROCKSTAR Energy Drink is not only committed to positive messages about LGBT Americans, but that they have demonstrated that commitment with generous support of community organizations. I applaud the company's recognition of the unique partnerships that can be built between corporations and online activists and their goal of working for positive social change."
For its part, Change.org has been working with ROCKSTAR Energy Drink over the past few weeks to make a bold statement on behalf of LGBT rights. Both Change.org's CEO, Ben Rattray, and Gay Rights blogger Michael Jones, have been leading discussions with ROCKSTAR.
"ROCKSTAR's show of support for LGBT rights and Russ Weiner's significant financial contribution demonstrate that the company is committed to being a responsible corporate citizen when it comes to equal rights for its employees and its customers," said Rattray. "This is a model for other companies to follow who wish to make it unequivocally clear that they support equal rights for all."
Jones added that discussions between ROCKSTAR and Change.org have shown that the company is solidly behind equal rights.
"The overtures made by ROCKSTAR and Russell Weiner to foster an LGBT-friendly workplace, and well as the generous contribution to leading LGBT organizations indicates a level of engagement with LGBT rights that should be commended," said Jones. "This is a great example of how bloggers, companies and LGBT organizations can work together to foster equal rights."
Bil Browning, Editor-In-Chief of the popular LGBT group blog The Bilerico Project (bilerico.com), echoed these sentiments. "I'm pleased to see ROCKSTAR is taking steps to ensure all their employees and customers are treated with dignity and respect. ROCKSTAR's commitment to continuing multi-year support of the LGBT community through both organizational and blogger outreach demonstrates their willingness to move beyond any misunderstandings surrounding their company. Not many companies would be willing to reach out to their main critics and find common ground for a solution that leaves all parties satisfied; ROCKSTAR should be commended for their eagerness to correct any previous problems."