On Corporate Wokeness in ELT
Updated: Jan 27, 2021
In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, Edward Hult, the Chief Executive for EF language school’s North American operations wrote an open letter outlining the company’s approach to matters of racial injustice. Edward is a member of the Hult family who, collectively, are worth many billions of dollars. His letter can be found here: https://www.ef.com/wwen/blog/we-are-ef/a-letter-from-our-ceo-of-north-america/
A UK-based English language teacher has penned a response on behalf of the TEFL Workers’ Union (IWW) highlighting the hypocrisy of corporate attempts at wokeness and, in particular, the hollowness of EF’s claims to equality and inclusion.
We read with interest your letter about racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. We couldn’t agree more that the “time for action is now” although we do suggest that if this was a wake up call for you, then perhaps you were asleep at the wheel because the unjust murder of black people and racial inequality is as old as the United States itself and black lives mattered before smart phones and woke posts from employers.
We do nonetheless welcome your late arrival to the party and have some constructive criticism to offer. We agree that “the world is better when people try to understand one other” so we hope you might take the time to understand the perspectives of some of your employees.
If you want to become “strong enough allies for [your] black employees” we suggest an overhaul of your zero hours policy. We are sure you wouldn’t want to continue adding to the damning statistics linking zero hours contracts and precarious work with psychological distress and poor mental health, especially when millennial workers from BAME backgrounds are 47% more likely than their white peers to be working in these conditions.
We trust that you will adapt your contract structures in response to The Race Inequality in the Workforce report by Carnegie UK Trust, the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Operation Black Vote and their call for employers to tackle racial inequalities in access to good work. With your family’s personal wealth in excess of six billion dollars you are particularly well positioned to make these changes.
Whilst you are feeling in a magnanimous mood we suggest you also pay the redundancy packets your workers of have been asking for since EF cut their jobs at the beginning of quarantine.
We expect, of course, that the internal training you wish to provide will be paid, unlike most career professional development meetings in the industry. We also suggest that perhaps your employees should train you rather than the other way round as it seems they are more aware of the issues on the ground than you. We welcome your desire to create safe spaces and suggest extending the government furlough scheme for all of your workers until the end of October as an excellent start.
We understand your desire to make your language and marketing more inclusive but suggest that, in order for this language to have substance, it should be referring to an improvement of the conditions laid out above.
We wish you all the best in your journey towards becoming an equal opportunities employer offering good work.
We realize this might seem like a big shift from the way your business has operated til now, but we refer you to your quoting of communist black activist Nelson Mandela who was happy to bear arms in his attempts to secure equality; “It’s always impossible til it’s done”.
The TEFL Workers’ Union