WASHINGTON – Pressure increased Tuesday on business executives, including 3M CEO Inge Thulin, to break ranks with President Donald Trump for failing to criticize white supremacists and neo-Nazis for their role in a deadly demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.
The Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF), the political arm of a national liberal think tank, launched a social media campaign Tuesday afternoon aimed at calling out individual executives who remain associated with Trump through his economic advisory council and his Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. The campaign dovetailed with a #QuitTheCouncil effort started earlier by the group Color of Change.
Thulin remains a member of the manufacturing initiative, which included 28 heavyweight business and labor leaders when it was initially formed in January. The initiative advises the president on creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S. 3M did not respond to repeated requests for comment Monday and Tuesday.
By midafternoon, 3M’s Twitter account had been tagged with close to 30 requests for the 3M boss to give up his membership in the alliance. One tweet begged the company to act on behalf of the state, saying: “Hey @3M can you please have Inge Thulin resign from Trump’s Manufacturing Council, you’re embarrassing MN.”
Another offered a number to call for people to ask Thulin to step away from the president.
The Twitter war is exactly what CAPAF and Color of Change want.
Trump “has never been the uniter he claimed,” said Emily Tisch Sussman, CAPAF’s campaign director. “Public pressure is the best tool we have against him. Business has been an Achilles heel for him. We feel like there is momentum for more resignations.”
Four CEOs and two labor leaders have quit Trump’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because they felt the president did not come out strongly enough against white nationalists after an alleged neo-Nazi drove a car into a group of counterdemonstrators, killing one and injuring 19 others.
The four chief executives who resigned came from Merck, Intel, Under Armour and the Alliance for American Manufacturing. In a tweet Tuesday, Trump blasted the executives.
“For every CEO that drops out of the Manufacturing Council, I have many to take their place,” the president tweeted. “Grandstanders should not have gone on. JOBS!”
Late Tuesday, following a combative news conference in which Trump said “there is blame on both sides” for the weekend violence, the AFL-CIO said in a news release that its president, Richard Trumka, and AFL-CIO representative Thea Lee had decided to leave the initiative.
Other executives on the business advisory council and in the jobs initiative have said they will remain so they can have a role in shaping policy.
A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota said the senator “believes any company that’s supportive of a diverse, inclusive workforce should consider leaving the President’s council.”
While 3M’s business is so widespread that it is probably boycott-proof from the left wing or the right, University of Minnesota marketing professor Akshay Rao said Thulin must decide the kind of image he wants to project to his customers and his employees. Thulin has long prided himself on building an ethnically and gender-diverse management team and board.
“What is the association you want people to have with your brand?” Rao said. “If you are [perceived] on the side of neo-Nazis and the KKK because of the president’s response, you will be called out with guilt by association. The other argument is if you are not at the table, you have little opportunity to make a difference.”
Fred Zimmerman, emeritus professor of engineering and management at the University of St. Thomas, was not surprised that 3M has not yet commented on Trump’s handling of the weekend events nor discussed if Thulin plans to stick with or leave Trump’s manufacturing jobs council.
“3M is a good company,” Zimmerman said. “And it’s not their style, nor is it the style of most successful companies, to blurt something [to Trump] right away … They may cautiously think about it for awhile.”
Waiting is not necessarily a sign of wisdom to some. A tweet Tuesday from someone identifying herself as “Cheesehead Lucy” drove home Thulin’s dilemma. The tweet posted text from remarks about the culture Thulin hopes to create at 3M.
“RESIGN from DT’s Manufacturing Council,” Cheesehead Lucy advised. “He does not represent your commitment to diversity #QuitTheCouncil.”
Staff writer Dee DePass contributed to this article.
Jim Spencer • 202-662-7432