Organic Consumers Association

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Corporations Should Pay a Living Wage or Face the Death Penalty

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page.

If businesses can't pay a living wage, they should get the corporate death penalty.

Doing business in America - and pretty much every other developed country in the world - is a privilege, not a right.

In order to do business, you, or you and a group of participants, must petition a Secretary of State for a business license.

If your petition is granted, you will be given to set of privileges ranging from the ability to deduct from your income taxes the costs of your meals (if you discuss business), to a whole variety of special tax breaks, incentives, and immunities from prosecution for things that, had you done them as an individual, you might otherwise go to prison for.

When we set up this country more than 200 years ago, we established some of these privileges, and associated with them some pretty heavy responsibilities.

Up until the 1890s, a corporation couldn't last more than 40 years in any state - which prevented them from being used as a tool to accumulate massive and multigenerational wealth. A corporation had to behave in the public interest, and when they weren't, thousands of them every year were given the corporate death penalty, their assets dissolved and their stockholders losing everything (but nothing more than) they had invested.

Over the years, as the Supreme Court has given more and more power to wealthy individuals and corporations, these responsibilities receded so far into the background that in one state, Delaware, your articles of incorporation can be a single sentence stating that you intend to "Do whatever is legal in the state of Delaware." Which is probably why more than half of all the companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange are Delaware corporations.   

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