By: Dr. Ericka Wills
As gas prices at the pump continued to make national news and undercut voters’ confidence in the economy, Shell plc announced $4 billion in stock buybacks and increased dividend payments to its investors less than two weeks before the 2022 midterm elections. This prompted President Joe Biden to criticize the company’s decision and threaten a windfall profits tax on energy companies. Yet the reality of such legislation passing Congress was low. And only three days after President Biden’s statement, ConocoPhillips increased its existing share buyback authorization by $20 billion and boosted quarterly dividends by 11 percent.
Oil companies’ massive and record profits, together with an apparent disregard of the presidential threat of windfall tax legislation, highlight how the ability to affect economic change may not primarily lie with politicians at this point, but rather in the hands of US workers and their labor unions. Take the issue of oil company stock buybacks.
“We have serious concerns about the lack of investment back into facilities, particularly given the profits reported by the oil industry as a whole and the amount of announced stock buybacks,” explained Mike Smith, chair of the United Steelworkers’ (USW) National Oil Bargaining Program.
Oil company stock buybacks exemplify economic trends that a majority of Americans believe help the wealthy while hurting the working class and the poor…
Published in the Jacobin