I am the CEO of a small, family-run, California manufacturing business, that employees 48 people, plus many more contractors, consultants, vendors, and more. Much of my days I spend representing, working with, and fighting for my business and my employees, and they for me.
Yet, in the current policy environment, I've felt paralyzed. I have strong feelings about the recent election and the storm of changes it has ushered in, and yet I find myself sheltering from its affects instead of standing up for what I believe. Much of my social media is a mix of professional and personal contacts Much of my life is an almost indistinguishable mix of family and business. For that reason, I've felt speaking out would not just be a family affair, but instead one that could impact my business and all of the employees, and even suppliers, vendors and customers, who I think of as my extended family. I would not want to hurt my family, so I've for the most part stayed quite.
As I've reflected on this position and seen what has come to be, I now realize I had it badly wrong. Not only was it wrong to remain silent, I now believe the current climate requires I speak out in support of the very people I felt I was protecting by remaining quite. My voice, and the voice of my business, must be heard in the context of what is fair and just. It is not time to remain silent any longer -- in fact it never was.
If taken just through a business filter, we find ourselves in a dangerously powerful storm: healthcare and health services are in jeopardy, which threatens my workers' well-being and thus diminishes their productivity; woman are disproportionately impacted, who represent the vast majority of my workers, in terms of healthcare concerns, safety issues, and more; immigration, visas and green cards are in question, scaring our impacted employees, and limiting or eliminating access to wide groups of workers, experts, and professionals; tariffs, border controls and trade wars are looming, which means exporting and acquisition of materials and products is threatened; regulations and environmental safe-guards are being reduced, which brings uncertainty, disruption and confusion around what is permissible, acceptable, and legal. There are many other topics, but these alone add major business risk and thus costs, which dampens profits, prosperity, hiring, compensation, investment and the longer-term success of businesses and employees alike.
As a business leader, I realize I must find my power to combat these trends. I can't let them stand, and thus it is a business and moral imperative to speak out. It is time to speak out on behalf of my company, my employees, my vendors, my customers, and my community. It is time to take action to build and grow the communities - local and global -- in which we live and operate.
Businesses large and small must raise a collective voice for action. Together we are stronger. We all have a clear responsibility to make our voices heard loudly, to speak out and make it clear that we stand for a just, fair and open society that nurtures innovation, openness, and diversity in all of its forms -- the very things that built our businesses -- and the very things that must thrive in our communities and our society if they are to remain vibrant and strong. If we don't speak, if our voices go unheard, other forces will shape our future, and will allow division, disenfranchisement, and discrimination to seep in. These are things we must not allow.
The reality is the country did not come together in the recent election but instead shattered apart into many divisive, divided groups. There is a lot of blame to go around, and many people see business as part of the problem. Many people feel marginalized and under-served by business and the current state of the economic and political systems. This is real and present across a wide swath of our country. It is clear that government alone cannot or will not solve the problems facing us right now. For this reason, business and business leaders must stand up and speak out in favor of an inclusive path forward.
This path forward requires actions that benefit everyone. For my company, my average employee has work with us for 17 years. Many have family members who also work at the company, including husband-wife, mother-daughter, siblings, cousins, and more. We operate in Richmond, CA because most of our employees live near by, and it offers a way to help build a distressed community. We have worked hard to eliminate toxins and chemicals -- and have won many green business awards -- in order to keep our employees and customers safe from harmful ingredients. We have worked hard to pay well above the minimum wage even for entry-level work. We have worked to provide benefits that best meet our employees needs, including schooling and classes, loans, transportation, and more. We have given our employees a strong voice in the business, and now it is time to use that collective voice for positive change.
Businesses must be megaphones for their families, and have the responsibility to amplify their voices to forge a new path forward. This is good not just for one company, but benefits everyone. It also serves to restore the belief that business can stand for -- instead of in opposition to -- workers. It is time for business to stand up, and stand up for the following things:
- Living Wages
- Diversity and Opportunity
- Equal Pay
- Environmental Justice
- Community Investment
It is the right thing to do, especially given the divisions we are now facing. Business must unite and work for real impacts on peoples' lives, and real and lasting change. We must collectively build truth, trust and togetherness, and stand with the other voices calling for unity and inclusion. It is an imperative for the health of our communities, our customers, our employees, and our companies -- in other words, our family and our Nation.