American Airlines agreed this week to do something nice for its employees and arguably foresighted for its business by giving flight attendants and pilots a preemptive raise, in order to close a gap that had opened up between their compensation and the compensation paid by rival airlines Delta and United.
Wall Street freaked out, sending American shares plummeting. After all, this is capitalism and the capital owners are supposed to reap the rewards of business success.
"This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again," wrote Citi analyst Kevin Crissey in a widely circulated note. "Shareholders get leftovers."
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Indeed, major financial players were so outraged by American's decision to pay higher wages that
But taking a broader view, this blinkered Wall Street perspective on labor compensation is, arguably, exactly what's gone wrong with the American economy. Any given company obviously benefits when it's able to get away with paying its workforce less. But one company's workers are another company's customers.