We just had a cataclysmic shift in American capitalism. This past week, 181 CEOs of the world’s largest corporations met for the Business Roundtable. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase and chairman of the Business Roundtable released a statement saying, “Corporations must promote an economy that serves all Americans, not just investors. Corporations are now going benefit all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.” This has never been said by an American corporation before in history. For Jamie Dimon to say, “The American dream is alive, buy fraying,” is an understatement.
I believe this all started back in April when freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter (D-CA 45) of Orange County grilled Jamie Dimon and did the math on a whiteboard on how one of her constituents, a Chase employee, can’t pay her monthly bills on what Chase pays her. When Mr. Dimon was asked how he feels when one of his Chase employees (paid $16 an hour) can’t pay her bills and is in the hole $567 each month, he responded with “I don’t know.” Considering Mr. Dimon was paid $31 million and JP Morgan Chase made a net income of $34.5 billion (with a “B”) in 2018, Mr. Dimon should have come up with a better answer.
Over the past 200 years, corporations existed for one reason and one reason only — shareholders. Ask anyone who went to law school. I believe the CEOs now realize why Donald Trump won the presidency. You can’t just shut down your factory in Ohio, laying off 5,000 workers because the unions want $35 an hour (with benefits) pay. Then open a new factory in Mexico or China, where the foreign labor will do the same work for $5 an hour with no benefits. But it’s not just the workers at the American factories getting the shaft. It’s also the suppliers to that factory who now have to lay off many of their employees.
Entire regions of the Midwest became shells of their former selves. That’s the real reason why Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by 77,774 votes out of 13,233,376 votes in just those three states. For the math geeks out there, Trump won those three states by just 0.005% (or ½ of 1%) of the votes.
Just this past week I had my latest blow-up with AT&T. After my rates went up substantially, we negotiated dropping some channels to get my monthly rate down to $60 for cable and Internet. This was supposed to be a flat $60 for the next 12 months. The very next month my bill went up. Then again the next month, and again the next month until my monthly bill doubled. Maybe Randall Stephenson, the AT&T CEO didn’t get the memo about “Make America Great Again” as I don’t know what country I was calling, but it wasn’t an America worker that was taking my call. I can’t even write a complaint letter to a U.S. address, as AT&T will only take customer complaints over the Internet. After sending in numerous complaints, AT&T realized that they screwed me and credited me back $118. Great. Until the very next month when they charged me back the $118 and said I was “past due” with this amount. Arrggh!
So far this past week I’ve spent 90 minutes calling AT&T on three separate occasions. The first two, I don’t know what country I was calling and they were useless. Finally on the third call (after being on hold driving from Eureka to Fortuna and then longer) I reached someone in the U.S. who took one look at my charges and said, “Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. We’ve been screwing you.” Couple more emails and texts telling AT&T how awful their service is and that I’m thinking about transferring to Suddenlink’s “$54.99 For Life” rate. Until I actually looked up what it would cost to match my current service with Suddenlink — $119.99. So I called Suddenlink, got put on hold for 20 minutes before someone finally picked up from God knows what country and promptly hung up on me. So much for Suddenlink hiring American workers.
How many local Humboldt County businesses do the owners make millions while paying their employees minimum wage? We can do better.
Matthew Owen resides in Eureka.