Putting Workers on Corporate Boards, Behind the Numbers, and Lessons for a Green New Deal

June 7, 2019

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top 5 stories of the week.

1. Why Walmart Should Put Workers on Its Board

The average Walmart employee earns $25,000 a year, while the owners of Walmart, the Walton family, make $25,000 a day. On Wednesday, the company hosted its shareholders’ meeting and was joined by Walmart associate Cat Davis and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who advocated for workers to be more involved in the company’s choices by giving them a seat on the board. For the blog, Roosevelt Senior Economist Lenore Palladino and Program Associate Kris Karlsson explain why giving workers a voice in corporate decision-making can improve business growth and, more importantly, promote equity“Stakeholder corporate governance is capable of pointing US corporations back toward a norm where those who create value for a company share in its success,” they said.

2. Behind the Numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly jobs report today, and the unemployment rate came in very low at 3.6 percent, the same as last month. “On one level this really is good news for the economy,” writes Roosevelt Fellow J.W. Mason. “But at the same time, it is very bad news for economic policy.” He continues: “For years now, we have been repeatedly told that the US is at or above full employment—claims that have been repeatedly proven wrong as the labor market continues to strengthen. As a result, we spent years talking about how to rein in demand and bring down the deficit, when in retrospect it is clear that we should have been talking about big new public spending programs to boost demand.”

3. Lessons for a Green New Deal

Green New Deal (GND) critics ask if we can afford it. However, we can’t afford not to: Our planet and society are at stake. For The Guardian, Roosevelt Chief Economist Joseph E. Stiglitz underscores why we need a bold response to the climate crisis and how World War II can guide policymaking: “When the US was attacked during the second world war no one asked, ‘Can we afford to fight the war?’ It was an existential matter.” Next week, Roosevelt Fellows Mark Paul and J.W. Mason will release a new report on the economics of a GND, including examples of the policies needed to make it a reality.

4. Rectifying the Rule-Writers

“Donald Trump’s threat to levy tariffs on Mexico has triggered a political war in Washington, and not the usual partisan kind,” write Roosevelt Fellows Todd Tucker and Jennifer Harris in an op-ed for Politico. Elevating the revival of a national debate on industrial policy and planning, Tucker and Harris ultimately show why we can’t rely on market alone to create the kind of society we want to live in. “That’s why the best of the new thinking puts government (re)organization at the center. To rewrite the rules of the economy, we need the right rule-writers,” said Tucker in a Twitter thread.

5. Inclusive Ownership Funds

Expanding upon a Roosevelt blog post—which was elevated by Jacobin—Lenore Palladino released a report on employee ownership funds for Common Wealth, a United Kingdom-based think tank. She outlines what this type of program could mean for worker power, inequality, and future policy measures. “How our economy is owned—and by whom—fundamentally shapes how it operates and in whose interest. Any agenda seeking to democratize our economy must have a plan for transforming ownership and control,” writes Palladino. “Policymakers who aim to rebalance economic and political power and close the wealth gap should propose establishing inclusive ownership funds in the US.”

What We’re Watching

Open now through January 6, 2020, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library has an exhibit on the D-Day invasion—which occurred 75 years ago on June 6, 1944—and the special relationship and “mighty endeavor” between FDR and Winston Churchill. Watch: David Martin covered the exhibit and its story for CBS News.