Trumka hits corporate reform efforts as mere talk

Greg Nash

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday said an effort by major corporations to include the well-being of workers in their goals was more talk than substance.

“We haven’t seen a significant change in their attitude,” he said at a reporter roundtable hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“If you try to unionize, a lot of places, they still employ part of the billion-dollar union-busting industry. They try to keep their workers from having a voice,” he said.

Last year, the Business Roundtable gathered a group of 181 top CEOs to decree that corporations could not focus on maximizing shareholder profit alone.

“If companies fail to recognize that the success of our system is dependent on inclusive long-term growth, many will raise legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society,” they wrote.

The letter marked a significant reversal from a decades-old orthodoxy in the business community that corporations function best in society when their top goal is returning profits to their investors.

The new approach said corporations should also consider the well-being of several key stakeholders, including workers, suppliers, and local communities, and take a long-run view on profits.

Trumka dismissed the change as window dressing and an ad campaign from corporate leaders feeling the pressure from a disaffected public.

“Those employers that you talked about changing, they didn’t do that out of altruism or out of the goodness of their heart,” he said in response to a reporter question.

Instead, he said, they were responding to concern that broadening inequality would upend the system altogether.

“We are on a trajectory where the current economic system will implode, because if it keeps taking care of a smaller and smaller band of people, it will end. People will not tolerate a system that only supports those at the top,” he added.

Trumka, the head of the largest association of unions in the country, said that labor unions were the mechanisms that helped the benefits go to workers, and that corporations that undermined them were doing little to keep workers in mind as stakeholders.

Tags AFL-CIO income inequality Labor unions organized labor Richard Trumka
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