Why Do We Have Corporations?

This spring the spirit of the Occupy Wall Street movement arrived at corporate shareholder meetings, with the 99% Power coalition demanding decent corporate governance that serves the interests of We, the People rather than just a few people. There are results inside and outside of the big corporations. Most visibly, last week Amazon dropped ALEC and earlier, Citigroup shareholders said stop the executive gravy train. Even bigger: the public is learning that We, the People actually can make a difference when we stand up and demand change.
Leo Gerard, Workers Of The World Unite — With Shareholders

At Citigroup, shareholders had their say on CEO pay — and they yelled, “No damn way!”
Concerted action by shareholders, workers and public interest groups compelled corporate change in several other cases this spring as well.
At least three CEOs resigned. Executives truncated one shareholder meeting to 12 minutes. And across America and Europe, CEOs lamented the end of automatic approval for excessive executive compensation.
A wave of corporate change is rising because the rabble and the stockholders share an interest: decent corporate governance. To shareholders, decent means more long-term corporate vision providing reasonable returns and fewer risky, quick-profit schemes benefiting only executives. To workers, the unemployed, community and environmental groups, decent means operating corporations in the best interest of the nation, including treating workers with dignity and refraining from polluting. Together, the rabble and the shareholders wield power.

99% Power Coalition

The 99% Power coalition includes citizens groups, workers, retirees, job seekers, families fighting foreclosure, students burdened by debt, immigrants and environmentalists.
Organizations invloved include The New Bottom Line, The Unity Alliance, Jobs with Justice, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, Alliance for a Just Society, National People’s Action, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Pushback Network, Right to the City, Public Campaign Action Fund, MoveOn.org, Service Employees International Union, Public Citizen, Enlace, UNITEHERE, Common Cause, Rebuild the Dream, Restaurant Opportunities Centers, Health Global Access Project, United Steelworkers, International Labor Rights Forum, Food Chain Workers’ Alliance and The Other 98%.
These are organizations of We, the People.

ExxonMobil Meeting Wednesday

This Wednesday’s ExxonMobil shareholder meeting is a big one because ExxonMobil is a really, really bad one. Leo Gerard again,

Steelworkers and Occupy Dallas activists worked with the 99% Power coalition to organize the protest outside the ExxonMobil meeting. USW-represented refinery and clerical workers will protest ExxonMobil’s greedy and dangerous corporate behavior. This corporation, which last year gave its CEO a 20 percent pay increase, has refused for two years to approve much smaller raises for its all-female clerical staff at Baytown.
In addition, ExxonMobil, among the most profitable corporations in the world, is denying safety measures to workers the Baton Rouge refinery — measures that it has agreed to implement at four other facilities. This refusal comes just two years after an explosion at a Tesoro refinery killed seven workers and seven years after a massive blast at BP’s Texas City refinery killed 15 and injured 170.

Why Do We Have Corporations?

A very dangerous question: why do we have corporations? Where did they come from? Do they serve us?
We, the People are the reason corporations exist at all. They are legal structures enabled by our legislatures and enforced by our courts to serve our purposes. We, the People decided to allow this form of legal structure to serve us by aggregating the needed resources to accomplish large-scale projects that serve us. They are supposed to provide us with benefits in the form of goods and services and good jobs and taxes.
Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?
Let’s reflect and think about that for a while. Let’s remember that We, the People are supposed to be in charge here and we do things like enable corporations to serve us. Why else would we have allowed corporations to exist in the first place? We, the People are the only reason these things exist. We, the People enabled them. We, the people did it to serve us. We, the people did it for our benefit.
Corporations are just legal structures, created by us and under our control as all legal structures are supposed to be. They are supposed to accomplish projects that we want done, for our benefit. They are supposed to provide good-paying jobs, pensions, and other benefits to the people who work in them. They are supposed to be for the good of society — all of us, not just a few of us, and certainly not at the expense of so many of us. They are supposed to provide us with taxes that (literally) pave the way for our continued prosperity.
Why else would we have allowed these things to exist if not to serve and benefit us?
And if these things we created are not serving We, the People — all of us not just a few of us at the expense of the rest of us — then isn’t it time for We, the People to change things and bring them back under our control?
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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