[Issue 077] How companies accelerate inequality


Happy Wednesday (not Tuesday, in case I've got you confused)!

I'm feeling like that gentleman today because life is good. Only a few more days of work before my company shuts down and I gain some extra time for myself.

Periods like this time of the year always remind me of the incredible privilege I have to receive paid time off that I can spend with family and friends during the holiday season. While organizations like Paid Leave US are fighting for folks to have at least the bare minimum of time for many, people like me often don't have to stress about it.

Divides like this really upset me, and I've been thinking lately about the same inequality when it comes to company profit sharing. 

Somehow I missed this article in October about Amazon's end to profit sharing for warehouse employees when they raised the minimum wage to $15: When Sears Flourished, So Did Workers. At Amazon, It’s More Complicated. If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend it.

The article starts with: 

Half a century ago, a typical Sears salesman could walk out of the store at retirement with a nest egg worth well over a million in today’s dollars, feathered with company stock. A warehouse worker hired now at Amazon who stays until retirement would leave with a fraction of that.

I was fascinated to learn that in the 1950s full-time employees owned 25% of Sears. If all of Amazon employees were to be given the same proportion of stock, in today's standards they would each be looking at $381,000 in their portfolios.   


Meanwhile CEO Jeff Bezos owns 16% and is the richest man in the world.

How I imagine Bezos responding.

How I imagine Bezos responding.


To be clear, this is bigger than just Amazon.

As the article goes on to say, "Amazon’s decision underscores how lower-paid employees across corporate America have been locked out of profit-sharing and stock grants."

The data:

  • 68% of workers who earn more than $75,000 receive stock grants

  • 20% of workers earning less than $30,000 receive stock grants, with the median annual amount falling from $921 in 2002 to $300 in 2014 

We clearly aren't just talking about executives, whose non-salary pay through stock grants often fall in the millions.

Meanwhile Amazon says that they pay increases for some of its employees from $15 to $17 more than makes up for the difference. I have no idea what assumptions—or magic?—are baked into their analysis, but they are missing the point: policies like this accelerate inequality.

I see this as being one of the most important conversations we will continue to have in 2019, thanks to articles like the recent op-ed by theCEO of Rent the Runway and ones like the article below about Google's (and other tech company's) segregated contractor workforce.

Let's keep talking about it, because something needs to be done.


P.S. Today's newsletter will be the final issue for 2018. I will be taking the next few weeks to rest, relax and reflect so that I can hit the ground running in 2019. In the meantime, you can find any random thoughts and musings I might have over on Patreon!


"Our swag is fresh." 

That's the tagline of the company on a mission to make a dent in the billions of dollars (yes, BILLIONS) spent on cheap conference swag. You've got to read the backstory on Fast Company for yourself.

And remember: If you're involved the planning of a conference, just say no to the plastic sunglasses - and just about everything else that is plastic / likely to end up in a landfill.


Exclusive: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.” For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Now, the founder Yvon Chouinard says their new mission will reshape how the company does business. Dig in for an inspiring read. // FAST COMPANY

Revealed: Google’s ‘Two-Tier’ Workforce Training Document. The Guardian recently revealed a document from Google that instructed it’s employees to not allow certain workers to engage in the perks other employees could, like T-Shirt, all hands on meetings, or professional training. The class of workers they are referring to are the TVC workers, temps, vendors, and contractors. // THE GUARDIAN

Women Get Board Seats Mostly When It’s Required by Law. This article discusses a study by Egon Zehnder that points out that all but one of the countries that average above 3 women on large company boards have laws that mandate at least a certain amount of women on the boards. // BLOOMBERG


Still Silenced: Sexual Harassment of Farm Workers Rarely Makes Headlines. This piece details the story of a woman working at a local fruit-packing warehouse in Washington (state) and is sexually harassed daily at her place of work. She shares how her male counterparts will openly speculate about females genitalia, lick their lips while looking at women employees, and make crude hand gestures when shaking hands. Men have exposed themselves to her, groped her, and told her it was her fault because of her “good body.” It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of female agricultural workers experience some type of sexual harassment within the industry in their lifetime, and male-on-male sexual harassment also has been on the rise. // YAKIMA HERALD

Forget Trinkets. These Gifts Change Lives. This piece by Nicholas Kristof offers up an alternative to the mass of gift cards that go unredeemed during the holidays, a whopping $1billion worth. Instead of a gift card to a regular retailer, Kristof recommends giving a gift certificate for GlobalGiving, a website who lists aid projects across the world. This way, your gift recipient can make a charitable donation to any cause they feel deserves it for the holiday seasons.  // NYTIMES


Tristan Walker Announces Acquisition By Procter & Gamble, Will Remain As CEO And Move Company to Atlanta. In the category of business moves Nikita obsessively follows: Procter & Gamble has recently acquired Walker & Company Brands, a health and beauty startup created by Tristan Walker. THIS IS HUGE, as Walker’s brand is known for providing people of color with simple and comprehensive beauty products, an area that had been lacking before in the beauty industry. // FAST COMPANY 

Facebook Among Firms Named on Myanmar Human Rights ‘Dirty List.' Facebook is among a list of 49 companies compiled by the Burma Campaign in the UK that is accused of involvement in human rights and environmental violations in Myanmar, where the government military was accused of genocide. Specifically, Facebook is on the ‘dirty list’ because they allowed their platform to be used to create hate and fear mongering among minorities in Burma, especially against muslims. // THE GUARDIAN 

Did a Slave Make Your Sneakers? The Answer Is: Probably. A new report by a nonprofit group, KnowTheChain, examines cases like a young woman living in India who has been working unpaid in order to pay back an agency, with no room and board for 6 months. This is an example of modern slavery, and it is not uncommon around the world. Prada, Hermes, and Louis Vuitton fared poorly in the report while Adidas, Lululemon, and Gap had the most slavery-free supply chains. // FAST COMPANY


Filling the fashion void for shoppers with disabilities. Did you know that in 2016 Tommy Hilfiger became the first large US fashion brand to launch an adaptive line for children with disabilities? Although the multibillion-dollar global fashion industry has made efforts to embrace a wider range of body types, it’s way behind the inclusivity curve when it comes to dressing the estimated more than 1 billion people worldwide living with disabilities, according to a World Health Organization and World Bank report. Here are the incredible people working hard to change that. // LA TIMES

As always, the headlines were curated with the help of ABL's badass intern, Lora


"I decided to make a very simple statement, because in reality, if we want to save the planet, every single company in the world has to do the same thing. And I thought, well, let’s be the first.

– Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia

I just want to send an extra dose of gratitude to the 162 patrons who invest $1 or more per month to support Above the Bottom Line's sustainability and growth. I really don't know how to express what your support means to me, but I can tell you that it'd be difficult to do this every week without you. Thank you 🙏 🏾


2019 is gonna be 🔥

Nikita T. Mitchell