Race: What Corporate America Can Do
The statements keep coming filling up my inbox, showing up on the internet, appearing in the major papers like the NYTimes, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Company after company expressing their commitment to stand with Black Americans, their heartfelt sympathy for the victims of violence and oppression, their dedication to diversity and their steadfast stand against racism. The statements have a familiar ring to them. I think we've all heard this before. No its different this time they all declare.
The words are so similar that they may have been written by the same high priced consulting firm. One of those firms that specializes in polishing the corporate image enhancing the "brand". Or maybe it has become so routine that they just download the form from Legalzoom and fill in the blanks. Very cost effective. It sounds suspiciously like another corporate Kumbaya moment.
The sentiments may be appreciated but what are corporations going to DO? And not incidentally what have they done up to now that has either contributed to the current state of affairs or served to mitigate it? By the current state of affairs I mean not only the racism but the sexism and the inequality and divisions in this country. If companies are serious I suggest they take the following actions to affect real change.
Change must start at the top. We hear corporate executives talk endlessly about leadership often giving lectures and writing articles and books on the topic. What does leadership look like regarding race and inequality? To demonstrate a true commitment to diversity all white male board members should immediately resign to be replaced by individuals of color, women and LQBTQ and other underrepresented persons.
Similarly, replace fifty percent of white male executive staff with members of these groups within 90 days. Impossible I hear you say. Corporations must be led by people with impressive skill sets, with experience and most importantly with connections i.e. networks. As the saying goes how is that working? If these current leaders were so good why do we have the highest rate of inequality in history, why is structural racism rampant, why is democracy failing, why do you hide behind your walled estates, your corporate jets, your private cars? Lets give some other people a chance to run things. You might be surprised at how talented they can be.
Next conduct an analysis of pay equity in your organization for at least the last 10 years. All individuals who were not equally compensated for equal work should be paid the entire amount of the underpayment for up to 10 years plus interest.
Immediately pay all workers a living wage and don't cheat. By that I mean don't "outsource", use legions of part time workers, so called contract employees and gig workers. A simple way to do this is to index executive compensation to worker pay. I doubt we would need to worry about a minimum wage law if executive pay was capped at 25 times the average workers pay and 30 times the lowest wage workers. I'm confident that wages would quickly rise.
Do your civil duty like they taught us in school. First stop all political donations - they only create division. Then stop development, promotion and lobbying for laws and regulations that cut your taxes (corporate and personal), allow you to pollute and permit you to escape accountability (financial, environmental and legal).
Support democracy and begin by giving your employees paid time to go vote - in fact insist on it. Then in your state and community support people voting - removing restrictions, increasing early voting, mail in ballots, more polling places especially in underserved neighborhoods and moving election day to a weekend.
Go further and demand a fair and honest tax system where the rich pay their share and more and eliminate tax loopholes, subsidies and other preferential treatment for wealthy individuals and for corporations. Actively support a progressive and substantial inheritance tax to allow each generation to start on a more equal footing. Insist on universal health care not tied to a person's job, paid sick and family leave for all.
Take all that money you are spending to convince us you care, to lobby politicians and regulatory bodies and DO something that directly helps people - hire, promote, educate, mentor - or just get out of the way. Unless you are doing these things YOU are the problem.
One Small Voice
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