Free Speech Activists Step Up Efforts To Protect Employees in ‘Woke’ Workplaces

Employees irked by the politicization of their workplaces — but wary of speaking out against for fear of being ostracized or worse — are finding new allies among activists in libertarian and conservative circles.

A ‘webfest’ will be held for people irked about the politicization of their workplaces in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion but who are loath to step forward to confront it. Via

Free speech and conservative activists alarmed at the intrusion of progressive identity politics into the corporate world are this week launching a pair of initiatives aimed at encouraging and supporting employees who challenge the status quo in the interest of ideological diversity.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which for 23 years has provided legal advice to professors and students punished for their viewpoints at institutions of higher education, is rebranding itself as the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. It also announced a $75 million expansion aimed at promoting the same culture of free expression outside of academia.

Another nonprofit, operating under the name Color Us United and headed by a prominent Asian-American activist against racial preferences, will this week hold its first “webfest” for persons across the country irked about the politicization of their workplaces in the name of diversity, equity, and inclusion but who are loath to step forward to confront it.

Color Us United’s Thursday event — a “Webfest for Employees Against Woke Workplaces” — is aimed at reassuring employees upset about the encroachment of progressive ideologies in their respective workplaces that they are not alone.

The ultimate goal, according to the group’s president, Kenny Xu, is to sign up advocates who will attempt to persuade CEOs to pay more attention to their employees and less to consultants or c-suite executives whose primary interests, he believes, are in promoting a company’s environmental, social and governance — or ESG — scores instead of their bottom lines.

“Many employees are aware that their company is discriminating against non-preferred races and cancelling and even firing employees who speak out,” Mr. Xu said. “Perhaps they think this is just a company-wide issue that can be resolved internally. They are unaware that there is a national woke agenda behind this and it is bent on internalizing wokeness across companies in America nationwide.”

Color Us United’s roster of supporters includes, among others, a conservative pundit, Deroy Murdock; a Manhattan Institute fellow, Christopher Ruffo, a leader of the recent campaign against racialized curricula in public schools; and a California affirmative action foe, Ward Connerly. Thursday’s event will be headlined by Vivek Ramaswamy, a former biotech CEO and critic of what he calls the “social justice scam” plaguing corporate America.

FIRE’s broadened mandate, announced Monday, seeks to put it squarely in the space increasingly abandoned by one of America’s oldest civil rights organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union. Critics of the ACLU have accused the 100-year-old group of morphing into a left-wing advocacy group that focuses on progressive causes instead of civil liberties for all Americans regardless of their political affiliation.

“America needs a new nonpartisan defender of free speech that will advocate unapologetically for this fundamental human right in both the court of law and the court of public opinion,” FIRE’s president and CEO, Greg Lukianoff, said. “FIRE has a proven track record of defeating censorship on campus. We are excited to now bring that same tireless advocacy to fighting censorship off campus.”

To expand its mission, FIRE announced that it is hiring additional staff and will begin providing legal support for litigants who feel their free speech and expression rights have been infringed upon in their workplaces or other off-campus settings. The initiative also includes a $10 million nationwide multimedia advertising campaign, dubbed the Faces of Free Speech, promoting a culture of free expression. 

Over the past two decades, FIRE has defended hundreds of students and faculty members accused of violating campus speech codes or who are in legal trouble for challenging the prevailing orthodoxy on topics such as racial and sexual diversity, affirmative action, and other hot-button social issues.

The organization says it has secured 425 campus policy changes affecting 5 million students; helped pass legislation in 20 states protecting the free speech rights of people in academia; and driven a nationwide reduction in the prevalence of highly restrictive speech codes controlling what can and cannot be said on campuses.

“We need to remind older Americans that freedom of speech is still a value worth fighting for, and we need to teach younger Americans that everything from scientific progress, to artistic expression, to social justice, peace, and living authentic lives requires the staunch protection of freedom of speech for all,” Mr. Lukianoff said.

The New York Sun

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