Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Last year we discussed the emergence of CEOs becoming America's new politicians, stepping into the national leadership void on issues like climate change and immigration. Or, in some cases, being shoved into that void.

Driving the news: This role reversal has manifested itself over the past week, as so many of our elected officials dithered.

Companies large and small closed their offices, instituting work from home policies or (in cases like pro sports leagues) temporary shutdowns. Most of this came well ahead of government directives.

Some large retailers like Apple closed their stores or altered their in-store services, like Starbucks. Again, usually ahead of government directives.

Many companies, including "nonemployers" like Uber and Lyft, initiated new sick leave policies, well ahead of the proposed federal sick pay package that the Senate didn't return over the weekend to vote on.

  • To be sure, not every company was proactive. Just like not all elected officials were behind the ball (Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker may go down in history as national heroes).
  • But each new office or store closure helped give cover to other companies to follow suit. And, arguably, lent courage to state and municipal politicians.

The big question last year was if CEOs were sincere when talking about their responsibility to all stakeholders, not just stockholders. Many have met that test when the rubber hit the revenue.

But, but, but: This is only a first step. It is encouraging that so many companies took early leadership, but those with resources must also become even more accommodating to their employees (particularly those whose kids are now home from school) and make sure not to leave nonsalaried employees behind.

  • For example, connected fitness company Peloton was one of those companies that shut its retail stores (initially for two weeks).
  • CEO John Foley tells me that it will pay retail employees for their scheduled hours over that break, will use its tech to help many of them work from home (i.e., interact with customers so they can earn commissions), and will offer all employees up to $100 per day in a "crisis" child care credit.

The bottom line: The coronavirus chaos has laid bare the countless holes in our economic safety nets. No amount of newfound corporate responsibility changes that nor forgives past sins.

  • But we don't always get to choose our leaders. And at least we have some, when all of us must be united in flattening the curve.

Go deeper

Jun 20, 2020 - Health

Reopening schools is a coronavirus wildcard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

We still don’t know much about the role of children — and thus, schools and day care centers — in spreading the novel coronavirus, inserting a huge wildcard into America’s national return-to-work strategy.

Why it matters: Even as workplaces reopen with new social distancing measures in place, millions of parents will only be able to return if their children have somewhere to go. Alternatively, if schools end up being a breeding ground for new infections, the virus will easily then spread within households.

Tech firms blast Trump's extended H-1B visa restrictions

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Tech companies reacted quickly and negatively Monday to news out of the Trump administration that it is extending a ban on entry of those with visas through the end of the year. Among those speaking out against the move are Facebook, Amazon, Google, Intel and Twitter, along with several tech trade groups.

The big picture: The Trump administration argues that visas like the H-1B widely used in the tech industry are responsible for taking jobs that American citizens could fill. Tech companies say they rely on these visas to fill positions with skilled workers from overseas when they've tapped out the American workforce.

How retail investors are beating the pros at their own game

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Call it the Robinhood effect. In a tectonic shift that shows how the coronavirus pandemic has upended seemingly every part of our reality, millennials and Gen Z have started to abandon video games and sports betting in favor of a new craze: the stock market.

Why it matters: While many have wagged their fingers at what they see as overconfident and underprepared youngsters day trading on their smartphones, the stock market's new school — a collection of sports bettors, the newly unemployed, Reddit aficionados and eager young investors — is growing into a force on Wall Street.