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In August 2018, US Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed the Accountable Capitalism Act, which would require large US corporations to allow workers to elect 40% of their boards’ directors. Numerous European countries already require worker representation on boards, and a growing number of US companies have received shareholder resolutions on the matter. The COVID-19 pandemic has trained a harsh spotlight on the poor treatment of workers in many industries and the inability of these workers to make their voices heard. Not only is this a violation of international labor rights standards, it is harmful to business, as workers are among those who know their companies best and whose knowledge and experience could contribute to better governance as well as safer, healthier workplaces.
In this Croatan Conversation, Croatan Institute Senior Fellow Liz Umlas speaks with experts from the US and the UK about worker representation on boards. Is this an idea whose time has come? What are the main obstacles to, as well as the strengths and challenges of, this corporate governance mechanism? Has COVID-19 changed the landscape – and prospects – for worker representation on boards?