Bernie Sanders supports requirement for workers on corporate boards

  • May 23, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said today that U.S. corporations should be required to include rank-and-file workers on their governing boards, emulating the system of some European countries.

Speaking on a Fight for $15 town hall broadcast on social media, Sanders said workers’ participation on corporate boards — called co-determination — would raise wages and improve working conditions.

“In America we have a lot to learn from countries like Germany,” Sanders said. “In Germany, workers do have a seat at the table. By law, I believe it is 40 percent of the board is composed of workers.”

“And let me tell you,” Sanders added, “if 40 percent of McDonalds’ board was composed not of CEOs of other large corporations but of working people, trust me, today you would be making today at least $15 an hour, there would be vigorous efforts to protect workers from sexual harassment and violence.”

Sanders was slightly wrong on the details of the German system. Since 1976, the government has required companies to have two corporate boards, one of which represents the interests of workers in addition to shareholders. The percentage of workers on these so-called supervisory boards varies depending on the size of the company, according to Bruegel, a European think tank.

Though the concept is not new, it hasn’t previously been a major part of Sanders’ economic agenda. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) supported a form of American co-determination in legislation she introduced last year, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) introduced a bill that would require one-third of a corporation’s board of directors to be elected by employees.

Sanders’ comments come at a time of increasing controversy for McDonald’s. This week, lawyers affiliated with the #MeToo movement filed 25 new sexual harassment complaints against the company.