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. This month we read work on the role of business in tackling inequality and other grand challenges, worker voice, and more.
The Business Cycle
U.S. Adds 75,000 Jobs in May, Well Below Expectations (The Wall Street Journal) The topline job number wasn’t the only surprise in the May U.S. jobs report. The historically low unemployment rate would suggest this is a job seeker’s market, yet wage growth was at the lowest in nine months.
Apple’s Scary Buying Power And The Woman Who Named It (Greg Rosalky, NPR) This month’s tepid wage growth in spite of low unemployment may stoke fears of an economic slowdown, but even during the economic expansion of the last decades, slower-than-expected wage growth has repeatedly surprised experts. The theory of ‘monopsony’ (not to be confused with monopoly) may hold the answer.
Alphabet’s Annual Meeting Draws Protests on Multitude of Issues (Alistair Barr and Gerrit De Vynck, Bloomberg) As Google shareholders voted on issues as varied as diversity in hiring, executive misconduct and employee representation on corporate boards, Google workers pushed for change using the power of protest.
Tennessee Volkswagen Workers Reject Unionization (Deutsche Welle) The issue of worker voice goes beyond the tech titans that dominate headlines. In the U.S. South, aversion to union organizing is more than just a historical legacy.
Purpose of the Corporation
CEOs Need to Grapple with the Populist Backlash to Corporate Power—or They Won’t like What Comes Next (Victoria Esser and Graeme Trayner, Fast Company) At a time of faltering trust in capitalism, why are Americans increasingly looking to business to lead on social change? One possible answer: “While Americans do not generally trust businesses’ intentions, they do trust businesses’ capabilities, certainly more than they trust those of governments.”
The Mystery of the Miserable Employees: How to Win in the Winner-Take-All Economy (Neil Irwin, The New York Times) Complicating the question of ‘good jobs,’ this piece describes how even a salaried position in a superstar firm does not by itself a happy worker make. Microsoft set out to discover what does.
Facebook Wants to Create a Worldwide Digital Currency (The Economist) Even if the attempt to launch a new cryptocurrency called ‘Libra’ fails, it may forever transform the way Facebook is governed.
Artificial Intelligence — The Revolution Hasn’t Happened Yet (Michael I. Jordan, Medium) This blog post by a UC Berkley Professor of Computer Science offers so much more than the typical expert breakdown of buzzwords like ‘Artificial Intelligence’ and ‘Machine Learning.’ It proposes a new academic discipline for the study of such technologies, drawing on the humanities and social sciences.
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