Last night I went to an event at SF Impact Hub for Ai-Jen Poo’s superslim book, Dignity – more like a long article with appendixitis – about supporting workers in the senior care business as well as seniors and their families. Everyone I talked to was working for a foundation: Haas, Jr., Haas, Sr., Omidyar, and myriad family foundations too obscure to recall.
What I know about philanthropists –tech billionaires like Eric Schmidt, Bill Gates, and Marc Benioff – is that they made their cash from the labor of others and by paying themselves hundreds of times more than their average employee and also rewarding shareholders and investors. That’s the way the corporate game is played.
What if, instead of paying a janitor or security guard or administrator assistant at Apple or Facebook or Google minimum wage, that person made as much as a first-year coder, say $140,000 a year? That might enable lower skilled workers to afford to live near their workplace, as well as educate, clothe and provide health care for their families, and contribute more to their communities.
The result? The Wendy and Eric Schmidt Foundation could dole out less to supporting what they say are environmental causes (why do they support KQED News?), while workers at Google wouldn't need to commute long hours from Gilroy or live in trailer shacks and go to foundation-funded health clinics when they get sick.
I say spread the wealth at its source, not after it’s accumulated. Perhaps we could set up – in addition to B corporations – E corporations, corporations that pay employees a livable wage, one that allows them to pay for health, education, and housing on their own without the largesse of philanthropists.