With COVID-19 and the Nationwide Protests, the Time Is Ripe for Structural Change in American Business
Suzanne L. Weakley
Suzanne L. Weakley is a Content Attorney with Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB), a division of the University of California, where she focuses on business and intellectual property law subjects. Ms. Weakley has been active with the Business Law Section of the California Lawyers Association (previously, the State Bar of California) for many years. She has been serving as an Advisor to the Executive Committee of the Business Law Section since 2015.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound adverse impact on the American economy, and the nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd have served to highlight the stark inequities that exist in many aspects of American life. It is clear that people of color and low-income workers have suffered to a much greater extent from the pandemic and the economic downturn, and a debate is accelerating over what the role of American business should be. When the pandemic has run its course, should American businesses simply revert to the status quo ante, or should things change? Many business leaders, as well as academicians and politicians, are finally recognizing that not all Americans have benefitted to the same degree from the economic growth that occurred in the ten years preceding the pandemic and are calling for structural changes in American business practices.
One noted business leader, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive officer of JP Morgan Chase & Co., in a May 19, 2020, memo to shareholders,1 acknowledged that "low-income communities and people of color are being hit the hardest, exacerbating the health and economic inequities that were already unacceptably pronounced before the virus took over." Dimon hopes policy makers will use the COVID-19 crisis "as a catalyst to rebuild an economy that creates and sustains opportunity for dramatically more people, especially those who have been left behind for too long." Dimon believes that "[t]his crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years."2