Building a fairer model of capitalism

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In August 2019, the CEOs of 181 of America’s largest, most profitable, and most influential companies pledged to move toward a more inclusive model of capitalism and pay their workers “fairly.” Two years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic tested these corporate commitments. In a new report titled “Profits and the Pandemic: As Shareholder Wealth Soared, Workers Were Left Behind,” Brookings authors provide groundbreaking pandemic-era analysis of 22 of the nation’s and the world’s largest corporations, helping to determine whether America’s iconic corporations have lived up to their own promises to create a fairer economy.

Examination of compensation practices and nearly two-year financial results (January 2020 – October 2021) of some of the world’s best-known and most popular brands in industries spanning retail, delivery, fast food, hospitality and entertainment, including Amazon, Disney, McDonald’s, FedEx, Home Depot and Hilton – the new report reveals that the company’s shareholders got richer by $1.5 trillion, while 7 million workers ( more than half of whom are non-white) of those 22 companies received $27 billion in additional pay – less than 2% of that benefit. Due to high inflation and a low starting point, the vast majority of workers still earn too little to get by.

On Tuesday, April 26, Brookings Metro will host an event to coincide with the release of the report. The event will explore how to build a more equitable model of capitalism and a new balance of power between managers, shareholders and other stakeholders, such as workers, government and society as a whole. Speakers will include leaders from the public and private sectors, as well as workers on the front lines of organizing efforts.

Viewers can submit questions by emailing [email protected] or tweeting at @BrookingsMetro using the hashtag #PandemicProfits.

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