Religious coalition to big business: Move beyond business as usual

In November, NCR reported on the efforts of the Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment to bring the matter of pay disparity and economic inequality straight to America's CEOs. 

The coalition had invested money in companies with large numbers of minimum-wage workers and filed shareholder resolutions with them. The resolutions pointed to data pinning flat sales to low wages and economic inequality. They compared the outsized salaries of company CEOs to average company workers.

So far, resolutions have been filed with 11 retail and fast-food giants.

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To date, says Fr. Michael Crosby, the coalition's director, most have chosen to challenge.

"When you file a resolution, a company can do one of three things," Crosby told NCR. "One, it can contact you and say, 'Let's talk,' and try to get you to withdraw. Two, it can just roll with the punches and urge shareholders to vote against [the resolution]."

"Thirdly," he said, "it can go to the Securities and Exchange Commission, and argue on eight different points as to why they have the right to keep the resolution from going into the proxy materials."

And that is what most of the companies -- six, to be exact -- have chosen to do. The companies are Gap, Kohl's, Macy's, McDonalds, TJX, and Verizon, according to Crosby. The challenges are pending.

"One of the arguments they're making is that the CEO's salary is highly determined by different protocols and rationales relating to what the returns to shareholders have been over the years and how that compensation has worked out," Crosby said. "However, they still have nothing in place for the lowest paid worker." 

"And then they argue, 'Well, this is ordinary business,' " he said. "So now we have to argue that this is no longer just ordinary business, that this is affecting the economic wellbeing of this country -- that it is a social issue."

In total, Crosby and the Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota Coalition for Responsible Investment will be filing resolutions with 20 companies. 

"This is not just ordinary business," Crosby reiterated. "This disparity is impacting the welfare of the nation."

[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is vrotondaro@ncronline.org.]


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