- Jack H. Bender
It's Just Business
Contemplation is long, hard thinking about something. We’re told that contemplation is good for us. An Aha! moment might even result from using a word to consider the world in which we live. We are living in an era of immense change. Ideas and processes that used to work for us no longer work. They have become distorted. The word distortion is a word I’ve used to think about the world. I’ve come to realize that distortions are everywhere. Politics is an obvious example. Our politics are polarized, the right going farther right and the left going farther left. People bemoan that there is no middle.
Business. It too has become distorted. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute, the average CEO pay($15.6 million) is 271 times the nearly $58,000 annual average pay of the typical American worker.1 Other reports cite even higher ratios. Since the mid-70’s worker pay has stagnated while CEO pay has exploded. The balance between management and labor has become distorted.
A business is an organization where goods and services are exchanged for one another or for money. There is an implicit acknowledgement that a company is offering something of value, something that is needed, something that is a contribution to society. But corporations seem hellbent to reward board members, CEO’s and stockholders while denying workers a fair wage for their labor. Profit trumps fairness. Societies are stronger if everyone has assets that they can spend for their needs.
Companies can be predatory while passing off their sins as “it’s just business.” A friend, who is single, lost her job from downsizing. She found a low-wage job and was let go the day before she was to receive health care benefits. She found another low-wage job and was let go the day before she was to receive health care benefits. Anyone see a pattern here? The first company failed to provide stable jobs—doing harm. The other two companies were predatory, suppressing wages and denying benefits in an unfair exchange of pay for labor. They also created joblessness—doing harm. Through no fault of her own, my friend fell into poverty through distorted business practices. The impact on my friend will last her whole life. Between those jobs she had to withdraw from her retirement savings. She will never fully recover.
Injustice is happening next door or a mile or two away. We have to become aware of which companies are living their code of ethics and which ones are preying on our neighbors. Who are the stable job creators? Who toss people aside? We have to discover which companies contribute to society and which ones don’t.
Social media is powerful, and companies can be sensitive to public opinion. We need names. We need to commend good companies and call out predators.