What We’re Reading is a roundup of current news and commentary on the challenges and opportunities of aligning business decisions with the long-term health of society. There are months when all the stories in What We’re Reading—of tech, worker voice, and the pulse of the economy—become almost inseparable. April 2021 is one of those months.
The Economy Is (Almost) Back. It Is Looking Different Than It Used To (Neil Irwin, The New York Times) “The central reality of the economy in 2021 is that it’s profoundly unequal across sectors, unbalanced in ways that have enormous long-term implications for businesses and workers.”
Why Are American Workers Becoming Harder to Find? (The Economist) “Analysis by The Economist of over 400 local areas also finds a wide variation in job churn across geographies: the gap between jobs growth in the most buoyant areas and that in struggling ones is twice as wide as it was before the pandemic.”
Amazon Illegally Interfered in Alabama Warehouse Election, Union Alleges in Complaint to Federal Officials (Annie Palmer, CNBC) This month, Amazon workers in a warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, overwhelming rejected a proposal to form a union. Now, the national Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union has filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint alleging illegal coercion by the tech giant.
Amazon Jumps to Record After Blowout Results, Strong Forecast (Ryan Vlastelica, Bloomberg) Meanwhile, the tech company posted record profits this month.
The Alt-Labor Chronicles: America’s Worker Centers (Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect) “Unions have been having a rough time even in large workplaces, as their recent defeat at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, makes depressingly clear. What recourse is there, then, for those workers whom the law, the logic of large-scale organizing, and the attention of society all ignore?”
Hostility, Harassment, and Low Wages Are Keeping Many Restaurant Workers Home (Amanda Kludt, Eater) “If we, as a society, as an economy, as an industry, are in such a rush to reopen, then why are we not vaccinating these workers first and foremost”? Many restaurant workers earn less than minimum wage. As these essential workers are being asked to do “much more for so much less,” how many of them will vote with their feet, and what would make them stay?
Purpose of the Corporation
Investors Press Berkshire Hathaway on Climate Action (Hazel Bradford, Pensions & Investments) Major institutional investors like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System have filed a proposal requesting the company disclose looming climate risks—a proposal Warren Buffett opposes.
The Men Who Turned Slavery Into Big Business (Joshua D. Rothman, The Atlantic) A reminder that slavery was a business with a supply chain, distribution networks, marketing, loads of financing, and a legal architecture. And a reminder, too, that far from being marginal to U.S. society, this business in many ways created the world we live in centuries later.
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