Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) speaks at a forum on civic engagement at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on May 25, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo: Paul Marotta/Getty Images)

To Curb Capitalism's Toxic Impacts, Warren Unveils Plan to Give Workers More Control Over Corporate Decisions

"We need to end the harmful corporate obsession with maximizing shareholder returns at all costs, which has sucked trillions of dollars away from workers and necessary long-term investments."

Jake Johnson

Taking aim at the heart of America's toxic economic status quo—which has over the past several decades produced soaring corporate profits and CEO pay while keeping workers' wages stagnant—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would "give workers a stronger voice" in the decision-making of major businesses and put an end to corporations' single-minded commitment to maximizing shareholder value at the expense of employees.

"There's a fundamental problem with our economy. For decades, American workers have helped create record corporate profits but have seen their wages hardly budge."
—Sen. Elizabeth Warren
"Because the wealthiest 10 percent of U.S. households own 84 percent of American-held shares, the obsession with maximizing shareholder returns effectively means America's biggest companies have dedicated themselves to making the rich even richer," Warren noted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed outlining her new measure. "For the past 30 years we have put the American stamp of approval on giant corporations, even as they have ignored the interests of all but a tiny slice of Americans. We should insist on a new deal."

Tracing what she terms the "shareholder value maximization" ideology to the work of influential right-wing economist Milton Friedman—who argued that corporations have a "social responsibility" to put profits ahead of all other objectives, including public health, worker safety, and environmental protection—Warren argues that corporate America's unwavering prioritization of shareholder returns has produced a system in which "workers aren't getting what they've earned."

To address this fundamental inequity and establish a system in which prosperity is broadly shared rather than hoarded at the very top, Warren's bill—officially titled the Accountable Capitalism Act—would:

  • Require American corporations that bring in over a billion dollars in annual revenue to obtain a federal charter, which would force companies to "consider the interests of all corporate stakeholders," including workers, customers, and communities;
  • Give workers the power to elect at least 40 percent of corporate board members;
  • Ban corporations from making political expenditures "without the approval of 75 percent of its directors and shareholders"; and
  • Allow the federal government to revoke a corporation's charter if it engages in illegal behavior.

"There's a fundamental problem with our economy. For decades, American workers have helped create record corporate profits but have seen their wages hardly budge," Warren said in a statement on Wednesday. "To fix this problem we need to end the harmful corporate obsession with maximizing shareholder returns at all costs, which has sucked trillions of dollars away from workers and necessary long-term investments."

Warren's legislation quickly won the support from a wide array of groups, including labor unions, progressive think-tanks, advocacy groups, and legal scholars (pdf).

Applauding Warren's new bill in a tweet on Wednesday, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka declared, "It's time to rewrite the rules so our economy works for working people, not just those at the top."

Lenore Palladino, senior economist and policy counsel at the Roosevelt Institute, said in a statement that Warren's bill is a "clear step in the right direction" that would "ensure that the voice of working people in corporate decision-making reflects the crucial role they play in their employers' success."

"Corporations today no longer advance the public interest. That's because they've chosen to use their massive profits to enrich themselves and their shareholders at the expense of workers and long-term, shared growth," Palladino added. "Solutions like the proposed legislation would create a more prosperous economy and ensure greater financial security for workers and their families."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Do Better,' Say Advocates as Biden Seeks to Double Refugee Admissions

"When thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their home to find safety, and Haitians are seeking safety on the southern border, the very least the United States can do is set a resettlement goal that meets the moment."

Brett Wilkins ·


Border Patrol Accused of 'Unfathomable Cruelty' for Cracking Whips on Haitians

"It doesn't matter if a Democrat or Republican is president, our immigration system is designed for cruelty towards and dehumanization of immigrants," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brett Wilkins ·


As Gov. Tim Walz Proclaims 'Minnesota Climate Week,' Ilhan Omar Says 'Stop Line 3'

"The state of Minnesota simply cannot meet our carbon reduction targets if this pipeline goes through," said the Democratic congresswoman. "Our future is on the line."

Kenny Stancil ·


Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

"The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line."

Julia Conley ·


Avi Lewis Hoping Canadians' Climate Concerns Deliver Electoral 'Upset of Epic Proportions'

"We need to send Avi to Ottawa to shake up the entire political establishment, including his own party, and tip the scales in favor of people and the planet," said environmentalist David Suzuki.

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo