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Elizabeth Warren’s Plan for Corporate Boards Would Be a Boon to Businesses

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In her official presidential campaign launch over the weekend, Sen. Elizabeth Warren returned to an idea she’s championed before: worker representation on corporate boards.

This proposal, although popular in a recent poll, has been dismissed by business leaders as a pie-in-the sky mandate that doesn’t make business sense. What the detractors don’t realize is that companies themselves would benefit from the sort of change that Warren is proposing.

To clarify upfront: Warren’s bill would not convert corporations into nonprofits or drive our country toward socialism. In her proposal and others like it, the majority of board members would still be primarily devoted to shareholders and to seeking profits. But having at least some worker voices at the table, even a minority voice, would add a new and terribly absent element to the dynamics of decision-making.

Over the years, working on labor issues for New York’s government, I discovered that teams in the C-suite often first learned about a serious problem affecting their workers when they heard it from labor officials, not workers. In 2013, for example, the state attorney general’s office received complaints from workers at various companies who were suddenly getting their wages via payroll cards (debit cards reloaded each pay period). Some workers lived far from any ATM in the card’s network and couldn’t access their wages without a fee. One company’s card system had no locations within the entire state. There were unexpected overdraft penalties. And the cards didn’t work at all for the digitally........

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