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. Our June 2021 edition examines the contradictions of U.S. business and society in a month where headlines announced both rising worker power and ongoing worker precarity, the declaration of Juneteenth as a Federal Holiday and fresh voter suppression laws.
Slow Jobs Growth May Not Be a Bad Sign for America’s Recovery (The Economist) Increasing worker choice, changes in workforce composition, and the labor-matching process itself are contributing to the current jobs picture, and “the churning of workers into new, different jobs could leave the economy more productive than before, and better equipped for a post-pandemic world.”
Huge Paydays for C.E.O.s, as Gap With Workers Widened (Peter Eavis, The New York Times) In 2020, “pay for performance” led to outsized gains for CEOs while frontline and other workers continue to push for wage increases and other benefits. What would it look like if compensation better aligned with contributors to real corporate value?
Tight Labor Market Returns the Upper Hand to American Workers (Eric Morath and Greg Ip, The Wall Street Journal) “Low-wage workers found something unexpected in the economy’s recovery from the pandemic: leverage.”
Most Americans Can Be Fired for No Reason at Any Time, But a New Law in New York Could Change That (Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Businessweek) Fired for not smiling at work—even when there are no customers in sight? This is one of the stories of “at-will” employment law in action this piece covers, as New York moves to end a practice that is prevalent almost everywhere in the United States.
Purpose of the Corporation
Brands, Voter Engagement and What Comes Next for Corporate America (Ashley Spillane, Triple Pundit) As states across America implement laws making it more arduous to vote, what are companies doing in response? What more might they be doing?
Employees Say Their Companies Aren’t Sticking to the Promises They Made on Racial Justice (Mela Seyoum, USA Today) “At a minimum, when it comes to topics like racial justice or climate change, companies must ‘do no harm.’” How can firms do more to prioritize the concerns of their workforce, and why should they?
‘I Don’t Think You Can Have an Anti-Racist Tech Company at Scale’ (Katharine Schwab, Fast Company) A provocative and critical read in a month when Juneteenth was declared a Federal Holiday.
Fired by Bot at Amazon: ‘It’s You Against the Machine’ (Spencer Soper, Bloomberg Businessweek) “Amazon knew delegating work to machines would lead to mistakes and damaging headlines, these former managers said, but decided it was cheaper to trust the algorithms than pay people to investigate mistaken firings so long as the drivers could be replaced easily.”
For more on our work to align business with the long-term good of society, sign up for our monthly newsletter and visit our website. (Please note, the purpose of this newsletter is to highlight what Aspen BSP staff are reading, and is not intended as advertisement or endorsement of content or viewpoints.)