Last week, Breakthrough brought together campaigners, journalists, and lawyers for the latest Link for Change event. This time, the theme was holding the rich and powerful to account and Breakthrough’s executive director Kat Sladden hosted a conversation between Martha Dark, director of Foxglove, Tortoise reporter Paul Caruana Galizia, and Amazon worker and GMB rep  Garfield Hylton.

Each of our panel members has tackled corporate power in their own way and shared their lessons. Here are five takeaways – from the panel members and from contributions from our audience:

1) Corporations are ruthless about using their resources to avoid accountability

From abusive non-disclosure agreements to aggressive union-breaking tactics, we heard from Garfield, Martha, and Paul about the lengths that corporations will go to avoid accountability. Garfield and Martha are working together to bring a legal case against Amazon for breaking employment law by using QR codes that prompt their workers to leave the GMB union. In Kenya, Foxglove is taking Meta to court for sacking its entire content moderation team, which Foxglove say was part of a union-breaking effort. Martha spoke about the challenges that face those trying to hold corporations to account when they have the ability to  restructure their organisations in ways that enable them to avoid legal scrutiny.

2) Whether through legal action or worker power, organising is an important strand holding corporates to account

Holding corporations to account can be a Herculean task as an individual, but organising can help to skew the odds in your favour. We heard from Garfield about the heroic efforts of Amazon factory workers to unionise in the face of this pressure. From the audience, Berta Chicote, a co-ordinator at the Nanny Solidarity Network, spoke about their efforts to build worker power amongst childcare workers. As workers on their own, they faced an uphill struggle but by working together they were able to win a historic victory: overturning the family exemption rule which secured au pairs the legal right to a minimum wage for the first time. These concessions were possible as workers united together.

3) Supporting campaigners at the coalface of tackling corporate power benefits everybody

Campaigners are often the first people to raise the alarm about the misuse of corporate power. Without brave individuals fighting back against their mistreatment by powerful corporations, the public would be left in the dark about these injustices. Each of the panellists spoke about how vital it was that individuals would step forward to be the face of the campaign or story – these campaign leaders are needed to push forward the issue. But there are personal costs and risks to campaigners who lack the institutional support that lawyers and journalists have access to. Ensuring campaigners are supported when they speak up is important as the impact on their lives going beyond a news cycle. Getting support directly to campaigners is something we think a lot about at Breakthrough. 

4) There’s one interest group that corporations fear more than any other – investors

Corporations sometimes use the fiduciary responsibility they hold to their investors as a rationale for placing profits above people. In reality, acting ethically is in the interests of corporations and campaigners, lawyers, and journalists can turn investors into allies by making this argument. In an interconnected world, it’s harder than ever for corporations to hide abuses of power and the reputational damage they cause affects their bottom-line. Paul from Tortoise’s reporting into sexual misconduct by Crispin Odey which resulted in the closure of Odey Asset Management is an excellent example of this. Similarly, Garfield told our audience that Amazon’s treatment of its workers had rustled feathers among its investors.  By working together, campaigners, lawyers, and journalists can harness this discontent to curb corporate abuse.

5) The public can support the efforts of campaigners, lawyers, and journalists to hold corporations to account

Campaigners, lawyers, and journalists all play an important role in holding corporations to account, but there’s another group that’s integral to that effort – the general public. At the end of our discussion, we asked our panellists what members of the public can do to help those attempting to tackle corporate power. Martha urged people to support the GMB strike fund so that workers can afford to stand up for their rights, Garfield called on people to support legislative action to the central arbitration committee clause for involvement in strike action, and Paul asked that when people read stories about abuses of power, they believe sources and their accounts of their own experiences.

***

Thanks to everyone that came along and made the event such a success. If you’d like to be first to find out about the next Link for Change event, you can subscribe to our newsletter or sign up for updates about Link for Change on their website.

 

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Our flagship programme, the Accelerator is a year-long bootcamp for campaigners who have huge potential and want to get serious about making change. This intensive programme turns budding campaigns into forces to be reckoned with.

Breakthrough's
Catalyst:


We identify high potential groups or leaders with direct experience and help them to build a coalition of support, and launch a campaign with huge impact.

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