Read; Become Convinced; Get Others to Read & Agree; Make Changes – Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini Read Piketty’s Capital, and People Actually Get Paid More

An author in France wrote a book that led to a raise for a bunch of workers in the United States.

That’s a pretty good story. And it brings tangible help to real, living human beings. These people will have more money for food, clothing, housing… their quality of life will go up in tangible, lasting ways.

Here’s the story.

CapitalThomas Piketty wrote a massive best selling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. It has sold a boatload of copies. And some people who read it started thinking about whether or not this book was correct, and decided that, in fact, the book is correct — (it’s premise:  there is rising inequality, and that rising inequality is a genuine problem). And, then, at least one person thought tangibly about “what should I do about this?” So, he developed a plan.

After reading the book, Mark Bertolini, the CEO of Aetna, required his top team to read the book. (By the way, it helps that he is the CEO of a rather large company). Then, after he and his top team read the book, they decided to give a raise – a substantial raise – to all of the lowest paid workers in the company.

And, now, those workers are getting that raise.

So, notice the progression:

  • an author writes a book
  • a leader reads that book
  • this leader uses his influence to get other top folks in his company to read the book
  • they are all convinced: “yes, this book is correct, and this is a genuine problem – for the people who work in our company, and for many others throughout our country, and throughout the world”
  • they decide:  let’s fix it where we can – in our company.
  • and now, real people are getting real raises – big enough to make an actual difference
  • and there will be a slight reduction, and least for those folks, in inequality

You can read all about this here: Aetna CEO Asked Execs To Read Piketty, Then Gave His Lowest-Paid Workers A Raise by Emily Cohn.

Here are the key paragraphs from the article:

Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini announced on Monday that the health-insurance company will be raising wages for its lowest-paid employees. Starting in April, the minimum hourly base pay for Aetna’s American workers will be $16 an hour, according to a company press release.

The 5,700 workers affected by the change will see an average pay raise of about 11 percent. The lowest-paid workers, who currently make $12 an hour, will get a 33-percent raise.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Bertolini recently requested that Aetna executives read Capital In The Twenty-First Century, by the French economist Piketty. The book, which has been hailed as the “most important book of the twenty-first century,” warns that the gap between the haves and the have-nots is heading toward Gilded Age levels of inequality and calls on the world’s largest economies to fix the problem.

“It’s not just about paying people, it’s about the whole social compact,” Bertolini told the Journal. “Why can’t private industry step forward and make the innovative decisions on how to do this?”

Mark Bertolini
Mark Bertolini

So… good for Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, his team, and his company.

This process is worth paying attention to. Read; become convinced; get others to read and agree; make changes.

So, what book have you read that actually led you to change the way you conduct business?


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