More Than Money
Issue #31

The Everyday Ethics of Wealth

Table of Contents

“BANG for the BUCK - Shareholder Clout”

Did you know that owning just $2,000 of stock in any company gives you the right to file a shareholder resolution? More Than Money member Marnie Thompson used her shareholder power to raise the minimum wage of one of her community's largest employers. Here's what she told us:

"My husband and I deliberately bought stock in a national corporation headquartered in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina, because it is an important player in our local economy. As a shareholder, I submitted a "ratio resolution," which asks the corporation to provide a justification for the ratio of highest paid to lowest paid employees.

Initially, I intended for the resolution to be a public education campaign. I assumed that the company would challenge the resolution, but that we would probably win the fight and the resolution would go into the proxy statement. Then, by presenting the resolution, we would promote a public conversation about economic fairness and sustainable living wages. But that's not what happened.

Instead, in the best of Southern civility, executives in the company asked me to lunch. Two lunches and one month later, we had had a pretty successful run. It turned out that the company's low wages were embarrassing to the executives as well. I agreed to withdraw the resolution, but only if they agreed to raise the wages of their lowest paid workers to $10 per hour. Ultimately, they agreed to raise the wages of their lowest paid employees from $6-$7 dollars per hour to $8.20 per hour. About 75 people received a meaningful raise!"

To file shareholder resolutions and make changes in the companies and communities you care about, contact:

Responsible Wealth
Provides assistance to shareholders interested in filing resolutions to make the economy more equitable.

The Shareholder Action Network
Provides information about shareholder resolutions being filed across the country.

School Choice: Beyond the Ethical Dilemma

"When my husband and I were deciding where to send our children to school," Ellie Friedman of Massachusetts told us, "an ethical dilemma arose: Do I do what is best for my child (which is my responsibility as a parent) or do I do what is better for a large number of people? I'm a true believer in public education, because it's a basic tenet of democracy."

We interviewed several people to find out how they chose schooling options for their children. In particular, what did they do when their ethical ideal of sending their own children to public schools clashed with their concern for educating them well?

Three opted for private school. Two chose to live in well-to-do communities with high-quality public schools. One chose homeschooling. Another enrolled his child in a parochial school with a mixed-income, mixed-race population, to provide the kind of diversity he was not finding in his public school. In all of these cases, the dilemma came down to a choice between one's responsibility to one's own individual child and one's responsibilities to the community (what Dr. Kidder of the Institute for Global Ethics, calls a "right vs. right" dilemma).

So, what are people doing to support public schools, even when they choose other options for their own family? Ms. Friedman started a private foundation to financially support her local public schools, another woman funds scholarships for low-income students, someone else volunteers in a local school, another is running for the local school board. Others are involved in the political system to improve public schooling.

To explore school choice options and ways to support quality education for all, contact:

Donors Choose
This model of citizen philanthropy enables teachers to provide activities for students that school funds will not cover. At the Donors Choose website, teachers describe student projects they want to initiate and list the materials needed to make it possible. Individuals can browse teachers' submissions and make a taxdeductible contribution that fully or partially funds a chosen proposal. Begun in New York, the model is being replicated around the country.

Parents for Public Schools
Parents for Public Schools is a national organization of community-based chapters working to improve public schools through broad-based enrollment. Based on the belief that quality public education is vital to a democracy, local chapters help public schools attract all families in a community by making sure the local schools effectively serve all children. Donation options include time, money, or expertise—locally or nationally.

Public Agenda Foundation
Offers nonpartisan information on current debates and policies in education, including the pros and cons of voucher systems and other programs to enable educational choice for all.

Public Education Network (PEN)
PEN is a national association of Local Education Funds (LEFs) working for school reform in low-income communities. The website includes how to start your own nonprofit, communitybased LEF.

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