The JUST Report: “This Just Ain’t Working Out. Something’s Got To Give.”
(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
It’s a story that captures almost every aspect of the business zeitgeist in America today – workers’ quest for fair pay, good jobs, and better conditions; unions; community support and survival; COVID; health and safety; climate change; ESG; shareholder activism; the corporate profit imperative; and, of course (inevitably), politics.
The Warrior Met Coal miners’ strike in central Alabama is now one of the longest labor actions in American history. Ours is not to pass judgment or take sides on the specifics – I leave it to you to form your own opinions – and the company in question, Warrior Met Coal (NYSE: HCC), is not a company we rank. However, I bring it to your attention as a modern-day parable about the forces at play in corporate America today that ultimately leaves you wondering, who’s really looking out for America’s workers these days?
It also connects directly to the intensifying politicization of ESG investing. Over the last few months, BlackRock, Warrior Met Coal’s largest shareholder, has been subjected to protests outside its New York City headquarters by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA); lobbied by Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Tammy Baldwin to intervene in support of “a reasonable contract that treats workers with dignity and respect,”; pilloried by climate activists on the left for being too pro-fossil fuels; and blacklisted by Republican leaders in Texas, Florida, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Utah for being too anti-fossil fuel. If you can make sense of all that, please let me (or Larry Fink) know.
In The New York Times’ recent “The Daily” podcast episode covering the strike, two lines stand out, The first is by former mine worker Braxton Wright, who says “This just ain’t working out. Something’s got to give.” How true that is. The second is by the Times journalist covering the story, Michael Corkery, who notes, “There was this notion in this country that you get a job, you show up on time, you do well, you can be respected by your employer. You can be paid fairly, and you can advance. And that doesn’t seem to be working right now.” That is the underlying issue we have to solve.
This Week in Stakeholder Capitalism
CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are required to pay $650 million in an Ohio case that held them responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.
Ford confirms it will cut 3,000 jobs as part of its efforts to cut costs and transition to electronic vehicles.
Google employees are petitioning the company to extend abortion benefits to part-time/temporary workers.
Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, expands abortion and related travel coverage for its worforce.
Wayfair announces it will cut 870 jobs, or 5% of its global workforce.
What’s Happening at JUST
To explore what policies and practices are driving the outperformance of companies topping our 2022 Workforce Equity & Mobility Ranking, we sat down with DEI leaders this week. Mastercard Chief inclusion Officer Randall Tucker shares details on the company’s $500 million “In Solidarity” initiative, designed to bring more low-income and Black employees into the banking business. American Electric Power DEI Managers Kim Hughes and Alyvia Johnson discuss the company’s DEI strategy, particularly its efforts to bring more women into a traditionally male-dominated field.
HR Dive digs into our recent Business Roundtable polling and corporate performance analysis, which reveals that while that Americans believe business overall isn’t yet delivering on the promise of a new corporate purpose, BRT signatories that have made a commitment to serving all stakeholders are outperforming their peers in our Ranking of America’s Most JUST Companies.
“DEI measurement should be no different than showing P&L for sales.”
- Randall Tucker, Executive Vice President and Chief Inclusion Officer at Mastercard, in our latest interview with the company on its leading mobility practices.
“In order to be competitive and to attract and retain the best talent, we need to have that focus on DEI to create those opportunities for diverse talent. It’s also just the right thing to do.”
- Alyvia Johnson, DEI Manager at American Electric Power, in our interview with her and fellow DEI Manager Kim Hughes on the company’s leading DEI policies.
“We have always known – and it has only grown clearer with time – that sustainable business practices aren’t just about protecting people and the planet. As virtuous as those goals are, and as much as they drive our mission, corporate sustainability is also about building strong financial returns that benefit investors and grow the economy in the long run.”
- Mindy Lubber, CEO of Ceres and Board member of JUST Capital, in a Reuters editorial about recent ESG backlash.
Must-Reads of the Week
Bloomberg speaks to investing professionals to warn that recent Republican campaigns seeking to eliminate ESG investing from regional portfolios will put the savings of ordinary Americans caught in the political crossfire at risk.
Axios discusses how apprenticeships – a key lever for opportunity and upward mobility we wrote about last week – are becoming commonplace in more industries.
Bloomberg reports that the average reservation wage – the lowest pay level that Americans would be willing to accept for a new job – has risen to $73K. The gender gap also widened with the wage, for men jumping to $86,259, while declining for women to $59,543.
A new Brookings Institution report says that between 2 million and 4 million Americans aren’t working due to the long-term impacts of COVID-19.
As concerns of an economic slowdown loom, Bloomberg reports on the latest PwC survey, which shows half of U.S. companies are preparing for potential layoffs. The Wall Street Journal reports on new SHRM data, showing companies are dialing back paid parental leave benefits after bolstering them during the pandemic. Fortune talks with SHRM president about which benefits he expects to continue to receive investment, including health care.
We were saddened to hear the news that famed billionaire hedge fund manager and JUST Capital supporter, Julian Robertson, died this week at the age of 90.
Chart of the Week
Every year we ask Americans which stakeholder they think is the top priority for large companies. While shareholders still receive the lion’s share of the vote, it is interesting to note shifts over time. Between 2017 and 2022, the degree to which the public believes shareholders are the top priority has diminished from 69% to 50%, and the percentage who say employees are the top priority has grown substantially, from 9% to 31%. Explore additional insights in our latest survey.
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