Dear Tom Wilson,
Congratulations on your new role as Chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Because this is an important position, one that has the potential to steer the direction the Chamber takes throughout the next year, we wanted to remind you of an op-ed you wrote last September for the Washington Post titled, “How corporations can be a force for good.”
In your piece, you call upon companies to use their influence to promote policies that benefit the labor force and the planet, while still yielding profits. In the months since your September op-ed, President Trump was elected and took office, and he now has begun rolling back a whole raft of policies that were aimed at protecting workers and the environment. As such, there’ve been no shortages of opportunities for companies to, in your well-timed words, “be a force for good,” by using their influence to oppose the rollback of these policies.
Let’s start with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Allstate has expressed concern over the impacts of climate change, signing onto the 2013 CERES Climate Declaration, as well as committing to reduce energy use. While we haven’t heard from Allstate, we have heard a chorus of business voices disavowing President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. From Facebook, to Google, to Tesla, companies used their influence to defend environmental responsibility, because like you said, “fully integrating social good into a corporation’s purpose is also good for business.”
In light of your own support for action to combat climate change as well as the support of much of the business community, Americans and shareholders want to know what will you do to reverse the Chamber’s anti-climate policies? It is the Chamber that funded the debunked study that Trump used to justify his decision to withdraw from the Paris accord. What’s more, the Chamber is one of the loudest and most influential voices lobbying and litigating against action on climate change. Are you not concerned, in your new role leading the Chamber – the very entity that lauds itself as the voice for business – that it is out of step with some of the country’s other largest corporations? “Corporations should be encouraged and rewarded for stepping up to solve society’s problems,” you wrote, and in present times, it would seem that the well-being of our planet is one of society’s more pressing problems. What will you do to get the Chamber to change direction and step up to solve the global crisis of climate change?
It isn’t just climate policy, however, that has companies at odds with the Chamber. At Allstate, you raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour because, in your words, “it was good business to do so” (something many others agree on) and because “more prosperous communities with better-educated workers and customers also provide a much better economic and business climate.” Why then, does the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which you now chair, oppose raising the minimum wage every chance it gets, while also continuing its fight against overtime pay? As chairman of the Chamber, what will you do to reverse the Chamber’s ferocious opposition to raising the minimum wage and implementing the overtime rule?
What’s more, 57 percent of your employees at Allstate are women, many of them with management roles. While Allstate’s commitment to hiring and promoting women is to be commended, are you aware that the Chamber consistently lobbies against policies that promote workplace equity for women? What will you do to reverse the Chamber’s opposition to pro-women, pro-family policies such as equal pay, paid leave and banning pregnancy discrimination?
If you are serious about corporations being a force for good, then you must, in your capacity as Chamber chairman, ensure that the Chamber reverses course on all of these issues. And if under your leadership, the leading voice of Big Business in Washington continues to use its megaphone to be the loudest advocate for policies that harm workers, women and the planet, it seems that your own advice would leave you with no choice but to step down from your position as chairman. Because after all, in your words, “social good is good for business.” If the Chamber won’t reverse course and support social good, then it isn’t doing good for business. Neither for your own company’s good, nor those of many of your peers.
The U.S. Chamber Watch Project