How will the Occupy Wall Street protest impact business?
As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues into the winter months, the debate goes on as to whether the protest will have a lasting impact on the nation's largest businesses and corporations. The demonstrations, which were initiated Sept. 17 by the Canadian group Adbusters to protest the growing wealth gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the rest of America, have sparked offshoots across the country, and lasted longer than skeptics imagined, but experts agree that it is still too early to tell what impact the movement will have on the business community.
“Although they [protesters] say the target is business, unless they get the regulations changed, its not going to have the impact they want, said Susan McMaster, PhD, campus college chair for the School of Business at the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus. “Because businesses are concerned with public opinion, unless Occupy Wall Street becomes the mainstream, businesses are not going to be concerned about it. Until then, I think their bigger impact is going to be on the political front.”
In order to make their mark on the business community, McMaster says Occupy Wall Street will need to use its political power to get like-minded politicians elected in 2012. If this can be accomplished, the movement may be able to indirectly make the regulatory changes needed to force corporations to operate in a manner they find more palatable.
“I think it certainly can impact the regulations and legislation that will come out — and we're seeing it now to some extent,” said McMaster, who also teaches in the MBA program. “There have certainly been some lines drawn in the sand where certain members who are currently in Congress are saying ‘we're not going to vote for that because of people who put us here in office [would not support it] and we're standing firm to what we said in our campaign.’”
According to McMaster, if Occupy Wall Street-supported candidates are elected, whether or not there will be immediate change in business will be determined by whether the newly elected officials are able to impact regulations and legislation that govern corporations.
Even if Occupy Wall Street fails to make much of an impact on Election Day, McMaster believes that the movement could still affect big business over the long haul.
“In the long-term, maybe five to 10 years from now as a grassroots thing, it could have an impact on businesses and how businesses are run,” predicted McMaster. “But from a short-term perspective, it’s more of a political issue as opposed to a business one.”