• JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said the coronavirus pandemic is “a wake up call” for leaders to address inequality in the US, per a Tuesday memo to stakeholders. 
  • He joins a number of other business leaders calling for change. 
  • For example, billionaire Ray Dalio is sounding the alarm on income inequality in the US, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is calling for paid sick leave and bereavement leave for workers. 
  • This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is the latest billionaire to speak out about inequality in the US during the coronavirus pandemic — joining the ranks of Ray Dalio, Mark Cuban, and others.

In a memo to stakeholders on Tuesday, Dimon said that the coronavirus pandemic is “a wake up call” for the country to address inequality. And he’s calling on government and business leaders to act.

“This crisis must serve as a wake-up call and a call to action for business and government to think, act, and invest for the common good and confront the structural obstacles that have inhibited inclusive economic growth for years,” Dimon wrote. 

A number of business leaders have been vocal about the stark inequalities the pandemic has exposed. Billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has spoken out about income disparities in the US, joining billionaire Ray Dalio in highlighting the issue. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is calling for paid sick leave and bereavement leave, and Melinda Gates is urging corporate leaders to prioritize child care.

Here are the changes they’re highlighting. 

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says the coronavirus pandemic shows that too many Americans are “living on the edge.”

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon

Dimon said he’s hoping leaders will take the opportunity to build a more inclusive economy, which he defines as one where there is “widespread access to opportunity.” 

“The last few months have laid bare the reality that, even before the pandemic hit, far too many people were living on the edge. Unfortunately, low-income communities and people of color are being hit the hardest, exacerbating the health and economic inequities that were already unacceptably pronounced before the virus took over,” he wrote. 

For example, one in 10 black Americans say they personally know someone who died from COVID-19, according to a recent poll released by Morning Consult. Almost 20% of black Americans say someone in their household has lost their job amid the crisis, Business Insider’s Eliza Relman reported. 

While Dimon did not mention any one particular issue or call for any specific change, he did note that the period during which the economy reopens is a time for big conversations on a range of topics. 

“From the re-opening of small businesses to the rehiring of workers, let’s leverage this moment to think creatively about how we can mobilize to address so many issues that inhibit the creation of an inclusive economy and fray our social fabric,” he wrote. 

Bridgewater Associates founder and billionaire Ray Dalio says the American dream “does not exist” right now.

Ray Dalio
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Ray Dalio, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, recently said in a virtual interview that America’s jarring inequality is a “national emergency” that is threatening capitalism. 

He specifically called out income inequality in the US, as well as the disparity in education between the rich and poor. 

“If you don’t have a situation where people have opportunity, you’re not only failing to tap all the potential that exists, which is uneconomic, you’re threatening the existence of the system, and I think that’s coming to home very clearly with the downturn in the economy with this virus,” he told the founder of Khan Academy, an education nonprofit that offers free courses on a variety of topics.

Dallas Mavericks owner and investor Mark Cuban is urging leaders to tackle income inequality.

Mark Cuban

Billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban recently took to Twitter to urge action around income inequality. 

“Whenever we get through this, we will look back and wonder why we didn’t use this as an opportunity to attack income inequality. Let’s not make that mistake. This is our chance to do the right thing and reward EVERYONE who contributes to the turnaround in the economy,” he writes. 

Many workers on the front lines, such as grocery store workers, food delivery workers, and factory workers make less than people who are currently receiving unemployment benefits from the US government. 

For example, according to self-reported salary data from careers website Glassdoor, a cashier at Walmart makes $10 per hour, which translates to a salary of about $20,800 per year. This of course, does not include the company’s hazard pay of a one-time payment of $300 for full-time hourly associates and $150 for part-time hourly associates.   

Facebook COO and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg says the coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for paid sick leave and paid bereavement leave.

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook COO and billionaire Sheryl Sandberg recently told Business Insider that the pandemic underscores the need for paid sick leave and bereavement leave. 

“This is a full on economic crisis. So we need full and effective support for families. And this is showing us that in America, we don’t have the support we need in the first place,” she said. 

There is so federal regulation mandating paid sick leave for workers. The majority of corporations, 54%, provide between five and nine days paid sick leave per year, with 27% percent providing less than 5 days, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  During the coronavirus pandemic, people who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus are told to self-isolate for 14 days.

Workers need paid sick leave if they’re to adequately recover from the coronavirus, the COO said. They need time to tend to sick loved ones. And the country grapples with a rising death toll, which now tops 90,000, workers who’ve lost a loved one need time off to grieve.

The US currently does not guarantee any paid time off for any of these reasons. When it comes to bereavement leave, the national average most companies provide is three days for the death of an immediate family member, with many companies providing just one day, according to multiple HR experts. 

Billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates says the pandemic shows the need for a new child care system in the US.

Melinda Gates
Getty Images/Bryan Bedder

Billionaire Melinda Gates is calling on leaders to address child care in the US, which disproportionately falls on the backs of women. Research has shown that mothers perform about 60% of childcare: 7.2 hours per week for fathers versus 13.7 hours for mothers 

A recent Business Insider report found that the pandemic is set to close 30% of US childcare centers for good, as many depend on daily enrollment fees that are no longer coming in. Economists said these potential closures could prove catastrophic for the careers of American women, who may drop out of the workforce to care for their children..

“I would say to business leaders, think about what you can do,” Gates told Politico. She suggested having more flexible work hours and considering on-site childcare.

“You can make this happen,” she said. 

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