The most important question left by the recent pledge by nearly 200 major corporations to place their workers, customers, suppliers and communities ahead of their shareholders was: How will we know that the companies are adhering to the pledge?
Jeff Bezos, a signatory to the statement issued Aug. 19 by the Business Roundtable, and chief executive of Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods, has shown how we’ll know when companies are reneging. One signal would be cutting benefits for part-time employees. That’s exactly what Whole Foods just did….The Business Roundtable statement was vague enough to make it difficult to pinpoint every case in which a corporation backed off the pledge.
But since it did specifically mention the corporation’s duty to provide “important benefits,” it’s fair to give Whole Foods an “F” for its recent initiative. Health coverage is unquestionably an important benefit, and employer coverage is generally cheaper and better than the health plans individuals can find on the open market….But this is unquestionably a bad look for Bezos, and quite possibly a bad deal for many of Whole Foods’ part-time staff. If Bezos really took the Business Roundtable statement seriously, he would be enhancing health benefits for his employees, not paring them.