The world has been watching the past few weeks as GameStop stock caused chaos in the financial market, resulting in incredibly wealthy institutional investors losing billions. What media outlets have described as a modern-day David vs. Goliath story has captivated many, including me. This story of individual traders uniting and working together to take on the wealthy elite who tend to control the markets is a perfect illustration of the power of the masses to make change. Perhaps this story will inspire the many to work together in other contexts as well, such as in the workplace.
What happened with GameStop
First off, I do not claim to be any sort of expert on financial markets, and if you really want to get a thorough understanding of what exactly went down with GameStop there are a lot of good resources out there. That being said, the simple, non-technical version is that some individual traders realized how many hedge funds and other institutional investors were shorting GameStop stock and decided to use it to their advantage by rallying the masses primarily via a Reddit forum.
When shorting a stock, investors are essentially betting the price will go down. Investors make money shorting stock by borrowing the stock from others, selling it, waiting for the price to go down, buying it back, and then returning it to who they borrowed it from. The profit is the difference between the price the investor sold the borrowed stock at originally and the amount paid to get it back to return it. However, things can go wrong if the investor cannot buy the stock back at a price less than what they sold it off at.
What individual investors did with GameStop was work together to buy the stock that was being shorted and make the price go up. This obviously does not work if only a few do it, it needs to be the many. The more individuals buying the stock, the more the price goes up. Then, institutional investors who have shorted the stock see the price going up and get nervous. Some of these institutional investors then try to mitigate their potential loss by buying as quickly as possible in case the price continues to rise. This drives the price up even further.
So, what is the end result? For a time, you have a bunch of individuals who own the stock they bought for a low price and a lot of institutional investors who need to buy that stock. Theoretically, if the individuals sold/sell at the right time, they make a profit and the institutional investors take a loss.
The power of working together
What happened with GameStop illustrates the power individuals can have when they work together. In this case, it was individual investors in the stock market. However, this principal also applies to workers—it is the same principal unions have stood behind in the workplace for decades. One worker standing up alone has very little power over an employer. But, when workers stand together, their collective power to make change is much greater.
The National Labor Relations Act gives most private sector workers the right to join together to advance their interests and unionize. Many workers are afraid to lead such a charge, but workers need leaders amongst themselves. Even a single employee who is working to build group action, acting on behalf of others, or bringing group complaints to an employer has protections under the NLRA.
If you have attempted to stand up for the rights of yourself and others in the workplace and faced retaliation, you should consult with an employment attorney right away.
Although many may think of unions only in the context of traditional blue-collar jobs, they certainly expand much further and have exponential opportunity for continued growth. For example, in the past few years employees in the tech industry especially have been mobilizing their collective power to make change. Perhaps GameStop can serve as an inspirational story to continue this trend.