Is A Little “Corporate Social Responsibility” Too Much To Ask For?
This past week, the D.C. Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act that would require some D.C. retailers to pay a living wage of no less than $12.50/hr.
For someone who has worked in retail for a long time…I couldn’t help but to be ecstatic for the employees who would benefit from the legislation. However, the bill seems to primarily target Walmart (although Macy’s and Costco were also implicated in the bill).
Walmart has voiced their objection to the bill and has resorted to holding new store openings in the District hostage in an effort to force D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to veto the bill.
My opinion is that the D.C. council did the right thing by passing the bill, I believe as a community we have the inherent right to hold members of our society to certain standard of behavior, that includes corporate entities. It would be egregious to allow Walmart to build establishments and gain profits from a community without re-contributing equitably to the members of that community. Walmart’s employees should be a part of the organization’s “social responsibility” focus.
Although the argument can also be made, notwithstanding the laws (e.g., minimum wage), employers must pay workers what is required to retain their services. When labor supply is low (low unemployment), this pushes labor rates up; when labor supply is high (high unemployment), this pushes labor rates down. In this scenario then, Wal-Mart would be compelled to pay the market rate for the services acquired. In D.C., that may well be minimum wage.
However, the D.C. council crafted a bill in such a way that Wal-Mart was the primary target employer. I’m not saying that their intentions weren’t good, but should the Council be telling Wal-Mart how to run their business?
Just like any other employer Wal-Mart must comply with legislation, but other than that, they are the ones who determine their HRM policies in alignment with their business strategy (not that I agree with their strategy). This is consistent with a free market society. A premise of our capitalistic society is that the laws of supply and demand will prevail – and there are those that believe that we are far too often seeing other entities (e.g., government) inserting variables into the equation.
So, are we walking a fine line when it comes to violating the capitalistic rights of businesses in our society? Or is a little “corporate social responsibility” too much to ask for?