Traditionally in America, labor has been little-involved in corporate decision making. Under FDR’s National Recovery Act, there was an effort to bring labor and capital together to make big planning decisions jointly, but on an industry-by-industry – not company-by-company – basis. But, the NRA was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1937, because it basically cartelized the economy. It was not working well in practice, anyway, is my understanding. Since then, with a handful of exceptions, Labor unions don’t try to join management. They stuck to negotiating with it over wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Well, now labor unions are almost gone, and our economy has been cartelized, anyway by giant companies. Our globalized, finance-dominated economy has left average wages stagnant for 40 years. There’s been some effort to broaden business decision making via socially conscience investment funds and a few legal changes. But, formally and in practice, employees – especially lower-wage and lower-skill workers – have little to no voice in corporate decision making.
Some people think it’s time to change that, including Jim Z. and Carl. So, on Monday, they will lead our group to discuss alternatives to the current arrangement. I sent them some of the articles below and they will open with a brief presentation on the subject. I will be there, too.
Discussion Questions –
- How much of a voice did workers, through their unions, once have in American corporate decision making? Did it work? What happened?
- What are the basic arguments for and against trying to give workers a more formal (read: legal) role in company management? How would you rebut the side you disagree with?
- What are the various ways this might be done? Are there models for us in the way other countries organize labor-management relations?
- Since any of these are unlikely to happen, what alternate ways exist to make corporation better citizens and to enlarge their goals to be more in line with the public interest?
- Should works be represented on corporate boards? From Slate. Or, read this longer but more thorough version. Read one.
- More on the German model of co-determination. Recommended.
- Obstacle: U.S. companies focus on the interests of shareholders and no one else these days.
- Another obstacle: So many U.S. workers are contingent workers.
NEXT WEEK: Is education just about getting a job now?