Discrimination in North Carolina - The McMullin Design Group

Discrimination in North Carolina

Posted by Bridget McMullin on April 18, 2016

At April’s High Point Furniture Market MDG’s team sees hundreds of thousands of pieces of furniture in just five days.

The furniture industry has always been a “Good Ole Boys” club. Even during my years as a student, it was quite evident who ruled the roost when it came to the industry.  It became even more prevalent when I began attending High Point Market in 2007.  A women’s place was behind the desk, answering phones, and assisting the male sales force. They teetered on their stilettos walking us through the showrooms killing their feet on a concrete floor for a petty temporary wage.  The few women who were representing lines were my sisters. They were warriors against the establishment, and trying desperately to break the glass ceiling.

Times they-have-a changed at High Point!  I have been bearing witness to the fall of the “Good Ole Boys” club.  It is a topic that has pervaded my conversations with the few female reps I do have.  And now that my company does significant business in the furniture market, I am able to choose not to work with sales reps that hail from such a backward mentality.  The companies that I choose to work with are forward thinking and have realized the value of the designer market.

North Carolina has been the home to furniture in the United States since the seventeenth century earning its nickname “The Furniture Capital of the World” in the 1980’s.  The state’s businesses are the largest employers of furniture manufacturing in the US.  The high concentration of tradesmen, from trained upholsters and furniture makers, to the suppliers of wood, frames, cushions, and fabric make manufacturing in the region efficient and cost effective.  The concentration of craftsmen is mindboggling!

The rise of China’s cheap furniture has cut deep into NC’s trade.  Many American companies thought sending their furniture manufacturing overseas would help boost profits.  However, poor quality and the “race to the bottom” mentality within the furniture industry has only made the American furniture market weaker.  Many local companies have realized the sacrifices they have made in quality control over the past decade and are bringing their manufacturing back to the US.  The majority of MDG’s upholstery and case goods lines are made right in North Carolina.

Recently, North Carolina has passed legislation against transgendered people.  It specifically targets to ban discrimination against “race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex” at businesses and places of public accommodations.  But it has very clearly excluded those with different sexual orientations including gay, lesbian, and especially transgendered people.  It has stirred a very public debate about the use of bathrooms for those who orient themselves with a different sex.

Our team spends five 12 hours days in a row checking out the latest and greatest in the furniture industry. A thumbs up means we LOVE it!

I think if Bruce Springsteen can make a stand, so can the furniture businesses that do over 50 million dollars in trade business during the market season.  Considering these companies contract and employee the talents of many artisans, and the arts have historically been a haven for those without a voice including women, minorities, and our LGBT friends, I would think these manufacturers would not want to discriminate against those who create, design, and build for them.  And what about the design community, which is deeply connected to the LGBT community?  These are the specifiers and salesmen of their products.  I know my dollars can be easily moved to another manufacture who has a more open minded view on this legislation.

Can one state be so narrow minded as to not see the bigger implications of their vote?  Is there no statesman who understands that this is discrimination?

Kristen inspects the comfort quality at Vanguard Furniture.

As a small business owner, boycotting market at such a late date is impossible.  We have already shelled out enough non-refundable moola that it is impossible for us to take the hit.  So instead, I will make this upcoming week about being a voice. This week I shop with a purpose.  I plan to voice my opinion to the manufacturers who matter.  I will make sure they know where I stand and how my dollars will be spent.   I know my fellow designers plan to do the same.  I will ask where they stand regarding the HB-2 legislation, and then choose my purchases accordingly.

We never should forget that we ALWAYS have a voice against discrimination, it is up to us to use it.