Weeks after trying to distance the company from a board member’s support for Donald Trump, L.L. Bean CEO Stephen Smith is offering to help employees affected by the president’s travel ban.
According to an internal memo obtained by Politico, sent to employees last week, Smith addressed both the executive order on travel and the recent Trump-related controversy surrounding the company. He asked affected employees to reach out to him personally, according to the Politico report, adding that the company supports “diversity to create a stronger organization and a better world.”
While we have gone to great pains over the past few weeks to distance ourselves from an unfortunate and unwanted political situation, there have been some more recent developments that have prompted me to share some thoughts and direction. Recent national policy changes, while dominating the headlines and sparking a wide-range of opinion, are also creating confusion and concern within our family of great employees.
… We are committed to help our affected employees in any way possible.
According to the Boston Globe, over 7,000 Somalian refugees settled last year in Lewiston, Maine, where the company has a factory. Somalia is one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries named in Trump’s travel ban, and L.L. Bean has hired a number of Somali immigrants, according to the Portland Press Herald.
The company’s website states it received an “Excellence in Diversity Leadership award from the NAACP” for its efforts to employ Somali community members during its holiday season.
“We are working hard and we’re going to school and everything – like regular American people,” refugee and L.L. Bean worker Abdi Said told the Press Herald last year. “They see that we are not different.”
L.L. Bean was embroiled in a media firestorm last month when it was revealed board member and heiress Linda Bean contributed $60,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the campaign season. When customers moved to boycott the retailer, then-President-elect Trump told the public via Twitter to “Buy L.L. Bean.”
Many other U.S. business leaders have spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, which temporarily suspends all refugee resettlement, indefinitely bans refugees from Syria, and bars travel to the U.S. for citizens from the seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days. Last week, a federal judge in Seattle suspended the ban, and an appeals court is preparing to hear testimony in the case.