November 26, 2012 War on Workers News

The 12 Companies Paying Americans the Least

247 Wall St

12. J.C. Penney

  • U.S. workforce: 159,000
  • Highest compensation: $53,281,505
  • Revenue: $17.26 billion
  • Net income: -$152 million
  • No. of U.S. stores: 1,102

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE: JCP) is poor example of a low-wage employer that has rebounded from the recession stronger than ever. So far, Penney’s attempts at a turnaround have failed, and it is struggling just to stay afloat. The retailer has posted a big third-quarter loss, its shares tanked and Standard & Poor’s lowered its credit rating deeper into junk status. If J.C. Penney cannot get some traction during the holiday season, employees no doubt will face more layoffs. It would not surprise many analysts if the retailer went the way of Woolworth’s and Montgomery Ward.

11. Darden Restaurants

  • U.S. workforce: 165,475
  • Highest compensation: $8,480,148
  • Revenue: $8.00 billion
  • Net income: $475.5 million
  • No. of U.S. stores: 1,994

A lawsuit filed in September charged Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) with violating federal labor laws by underpaying thousands of servers across the country at its Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster chains. The action represented employees who who worked for the company going back to Aug. 2009 and sought millions of dollars in back wages and other compensation. “We’re seeking not only to correct the wrongs that have occurred at Darden, but hopefully this will stimulate change across the country,” said a lead attorney in the case. While the compensation of CEO Clarence Otis Jr. did drop from $8.48 million in 2011 to $8.08 million in 2012, that cannot be much comfort to those at the bottom of the pay scale at Darden.

10. Wendy’s

  • U.S. workforce: 168,672
  • CEO compensation: $16,537,725
  • Revenue: $2.13 billion
  • Net income: $12.9 million
  • No. of U.S. stores: 6,594

The Wendy’s Company (NYSE: WEN) efforts to remake itself appear to be paying off. Same-store sales have risen for six straight quarters, and the company tries to sidle away from the traditional fast-food category toward the fast-casual arena occupied by the likes of Panera Bread Co. (NASDAQ: PNRA) and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. (NYSE: CMG). Investors have been rewarded with a recent boost to the quarterly dividend to $0.04 per share from $0.02 per share, though shares have been largely range-bound between $4 and $5 for almost four years. It remains to be seen whether Wendy’s employees will benefit from the recent success. It’s interesting to note that the top compensation package at Wendy’s is greater than those at McDonald’s or Starbucks.

9. Macy’s

  • U.S. workforce: 171,000
  • CEO compensation: $17,650,702
  • Revenue: $26.41 billion
  • Net income: $1.26 billion
  • No. of U.S. stores: 842

Unlike many of the companies on the list, some of Macy’s (NYSE: M) workers are members of a union and they have achieved several concessions from the company. Specifically, next spring, senior members of the retail unions at New York City’s Bloomingdales and Macy’s will be able to choose their preferred hours of work by setting their own schedules and vacation time. According to UPI, “these gains … are in contrast to the scheduling uncertainties rampant in an increasingly ‘just in time’ work force.” While workers count this as a small victory, only 4% of Macy’s and Bloomingdales’ combined 171,000 employees are members of a union.

Read the source story here.

This is what we union thugs do for the holidays

Teamster unloading turkeysTeamster Nation
We give to those in need so they have something to celebrate. All across the USA and Canada.

We’ve been telling you about the thousands of Teamsters helping Superstorm Sandy victims get back on their feet. Thanksgiving eve, Jack Hanley from Local 802 (with help from local residents) delivered baked goods to the emergency shelter in Long Beach.

“The area was destroyed,” he reported. “We brought baked goods throughout the Rockaways, too.”

Local 25 in Boston just kicked off its Toys for Tots Drive. Local 117 is collecting toys for needy families in Tukwila, Wash.

Read the source story here.

Shoppers, Walmart Strikers Find Common Bonds in Paducah

Paducah StrikersAFL-CIO Now
The manager at the Southside Walmart in Paducah, Ky., might have figured he’d quashed the protest at his store. After all, he made James Vetato and three other OUR Walmart picketers leave from near the front door.

The quartet retreated but regrouped at the entrance road to the busy shopping center the Walmart store anchors.

They redeployed under a big blue and white Walmart sign and held up hand-lettered placards reading, “ON STRIKE FOR THE FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT,” “RESPECT ASSOCIATES DON’T SILENCE ASSOCIATES,” and “WALMART STOP BULLYING ASSOCIATES WHO SPEAK OUT.”

Vetato, his wife, Trina, Rick Thompson and Amber Frazee, were among many members of Organization United for Respect at Walmart—”OUR Walmart,” for short—who struck and walked picket lines at stores in a reported 100 cities and towns in 46 states on Thanksgiving night and on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

The group, which numbers thousands of current and past Walmart employees across the country, wanted to focus national attention on Walmart’s abuse of its workers, Vetato said.

The world’s richest retailer, Walmart is known for paying low wages to its employees, called “associates.” In addition, Walmart is fiercely anti-union.

Said Trina Vetato:

People honked and waved to show their support, and they slowed down to read the signs. Some people stopped and told us they supported what we were doing.

Read the source story here.

Teamsters, Jobs With Justice Protest Bill Gates and Republic Services
On Nov. 21, members of the Teamsters Union and Atlanta Jobs with Justice protested Bill Gates at Georgia Tech, where the billionaire addressed more than one thousand students and faculty. The protesters called attention to Republic Services’ environmental destruction and mistreatment of employees. Gates is the primary owner of Republic Services, the second largest waste company in North America.

Two protesters displaying a banner that read “Republic/Allied: Don’t Trash Our Communities” were forcefully removed from the event after attempting to ask Gates why he refuses to stop his attack on workers and their retirement security. Republic/Allied Waste workers in Atlanta are represented by Teamsters Local 728 in Atlanta, Ga.

“Sanitation work is the fourth most dangerous job in the country. These workers literally put their lives on the line every day to protect the public health,” said Eric Robertson, Business Agent for Local 728. “It’s outrageous that Bill Gates says he supports public health programs, and yet he’s the primary owner of a company that locks out its workers and creates public health crises in American communities.”

Read the source story here.

10 Facts Retailers Don’t Want You to Know About Online Shopping

Talking Union
When the news covers Cyber Monday every year, the focus is on sales and consumer spending – not the real cost to the workers who deliver all of those orders. The whole system is built on unsafe, low-paying, temporary jobs. Workers in U.S. shipping centers and warehouses that fulfill online orders for major retailers like and Walmart are subject to dangerous, sweatshop-like working conditions. These workers are consistently asked to work at unreasonable and backbreaking speeds, but they endure the pain because they’re afraid of losing their jobs. Get the real deal on online shipping:

1. Backbreaking pace of work: Workers in shipping centers who fulfill online orders are asked to grab items for boxes at unsustainably high speeds. In many cases, workers are required to collect 1,200 items in a 10-hour shift, or one item every 30 seconds.i If employees can’t keep up, they are disciplined or fired.

Worker Quote #1

2. Marathon walking: Workers have to continuously cross great distances inside the massive warehouses. “Pickers,” who locate and collect items for shipping, reportedly walk on average between 12ii and 15iii miles every shift. Despite some items being football fields apart iv, workers are expected to maintain the same frenzied pace.

3. Extreme temperatures: Temperatures in warehouses are often extreme – either way too hot (120 degrees!v) or too cold. The warehouses can become literal sweatshops. Rather than slow the pace of work or provide air conditioning, last year Amazon executives arranged for paramedics to wait in ambulances outside its warehouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to treat all of the workers suffering from dehydration or heat stress.

4. Physical injuries: With a frenzied work pace, repetitive heavy lifting, constant walking, and extreme temperatures, many workers report being injured on the job.vii viii ix Many workers last less than six months at the job because of the grueling physical demands.

Read the source story here.

NY Teamsters protest unfair severance package from rehab center

Teamster Nation
Oh this is charming. A wealthy New York rehab center will lay off 60 of our Teamster brothers and sisters but won’t pay for their health care while they’re unemployed.

Right now, the Teamster social workers are holding a Health Walk outside the International Center for the Disabled (ICD) on 24th and 1st Ave. They say ICD management is hypocritical for abandoning its core mission — health care — for its own employees. They are asking for a mediator.

Read the source story here.

Strippers win misclassification case

Teamster Nation
Strippers at a chain of dance clubs struck a blow for workers’ rights earlier this month when they won a misclassification lawsuit against their employer. Spearmint Rhino, like FedEx Ground, was misclassifying its employees as independent contractors while demanding they follow strict work rules.

The Atlantic reports,

…strippers employed by the Spearmint Rhino chain won an unprecedented $13 million settlement in Federal court, the result of a class action suit to restore back wages and contest their status as independent contractors of the clubs.

U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled Spearmint Rhino must stop charging dancers fees for the right to work. She also ruled the company must grant all dancers employee status within six months.

Read the source story here.

Supreme Court struggles over workplace harassment standard

Thompson Reuters
Fourteen years after deciding that employers can be liable for workplace harassment by supervisors they employ, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared to struggle with an issue left unanswered: who qualifies as a supervisor.

A decision in the case against Ball State University, brought by a black catering assistant named Maetta Vance, could clarify how readily harassment victims may hold deeper-pocketed employers accountable under federal law.

Several justices questioned where best to draw the line, a task made harder by the agreement of the parties arguing in court that the standard set by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in dismissing Vance’s case was too strict.

In that June 2011 ruling written by Judge Diane Wood, considered one of its more liberal members, the 7th Circuit said that to be a supervisor, an employee must have the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer or discipline the victim.

Three federal appeals courts have adopted this standard, while three others have said day-to-day oversight is enough to result in liability. A definition proposed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission resembles the latter standard.

At Monday’s oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts suggested to Vance’s lawyer Daniel Ortiz that the 7th Circuit standard might prove workable.

Read the source story here.

With Biggest Strike Against Biggest Employer, Walmart Workers Make History Again

The Nation
For about twenty-four hours, Walmart workers, union members and a slew of other activists pulled off the largest-ever US strike against the largest employer in the world. According to organizers, strikes hit a hundred US cities, with hundreds of retail workers walking off the job (last month‘s strikes drew 160). Organizers say they also hit their goal of a thousand total protests, with all but four states holding at least one. In the process, they notched a further escalation against the corporation that’s done more than any other to frustrate the ambitions and undermine the achievements of organized labor in the United States.

“I’m so happy that this is history, that my grandkids can learn from this to stand up for themselves,” Miami striker Elaine Rozier told The Nation Thursday night. Before, “I always used to sit back and not say anything…. I’m proud of myself tonight.”

[…] By 9 am Friday, Walmart had already sent out a statement announcing its “best ever Black Friday events,” claiming that only fifty workers were on strike, and dismissing the action as a failure. Organizers accused Walmart of making up numbers, and noted that the company’s aggressive efforts to discourage participation undermined its supposed indifference.

[…] While some observers are already deriding the strike for failing to bring Walmart to its knees, worker activists and staff organizers have long been talking about it as an escalation, not a climax. While on the picket line Thursday and Friday, workers were already talking about striking again, and hoping that their courage this time would embolden more workers to join in the next. “There’s going to be more days that we’re going to strike,” Rozier said last night, “and it’s not going to stop. I’m not going to stop until they respect us and give us what we want.” That’s in line with what the UFCW’s Dan Schlademan promised earlier this month: “This is a new permanent reality for Walmart…. Two thousand and twelve is the beginning of the season where retail workers are going to start to stand up.”

Read the source story here.

CEO Council Demands Cuts To Poor, Elderly While Reaping Billions In Government Contracts, Tax Breaks

Huffington Post
The corporate CEOs who have made a high-profile foray into deficit negotiations have themselves been substantially responsible for the size of the deficit they now want closed.

The companies represented by executives working with the Campaign To Fix The Debt have received trillions in federal war contracts, subsidies and bailouts, as well as specialized tax breaks and loopholes that virtually eliminate the companies’ tax bills.

The CEOs are part of a campaign run by the Peter Peterson-backed Center for a Responsible Federal Budget, which plans to spend at least $30 million pushing for a deficit reduction deal in the lame-duck session and beyond.

During the past few days, CEOs belonging to what the campaign calls its CEO Fiscal Leadership Council — most visibly, Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and Honeywell’s David Cote — have barnstormed the media, making the case that the only way to cut the deficit is to severely scale back social safety-net programs — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — which would disproportionately impact the poor and the elderly.

As part of their push, they are advocating a “territorial tax system” that would exempt their companies’ foreign profits from taxation, netting them about $134 billion in tax savings, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies titled “The CEO Campaign to ‘Fix’ the Debt: A Trojan Horse for Massive Corporate Tax Breaks” — money that could help pay off the federal budget deficit.

Yet the CEOs are not offering to forgo federal money or pay a higher tax rate, on their personal income or corporate profits. Instead, council recommendations include cutting “entitlement” programs, as well as what they call “low-priority spending.”

Many of the companies recommending austerity would be out of business without the heavy federal support they get, including Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, which both received billions in direct bailout cash, plus billions more indirectly through AIG and other companies taxpayers rescued.

Read the source story here.

Postal Service cuts could affect state’s mail-in voting

The Seattle Times
Washington’s all-mail election system, already dealing with public frustration over how long it takes to count ballots, is about to face a new challenge: U.S. Postal Service cutbacks.

State elections officials say the planned closures of five mail-processing centers in Washington would require voters in rural areas to submit their ballots earlier on Election Day — and possibly delay ballots arriving at county elections offices.

The changes would leave the state with just two centers for mail to be sorted and postmarked, in Seattle and Spokane. That would move up daily collection times in the middle of the state to give workers time to get the mail to a processing center. That, in turn, would require voters who wait until Election Day to mail their ballots to do it earlier in the day.

State law requires that ballots be postmarked by Election Day.

“We are very much concerned,” said Sheryl Moss, a Secretary of State’s Office employee who serves on a national committee providing input on the effects of the changes. “This will make it more difficult on the voters.”

Read the source story here.

Over 100 Killed By Fire In Bangladeshi Factory Allegedly Supplying Walmart

Think Progress
A fire that killed 129 people in a Bangladeshi garment factory is raising questions about working conditions in the exporting hub. Sunday’s deadly fire immolated the Tazreen Factories plant just outside the major city of Dhaka, which appeared to have been making clothes for Western clothing giants like Walmart. The Dhaka plant had no emergency exits and utterly deficient emergency evacuation procedures:

When the fire alarm went off, workers were told by their bosses to go back to their sewing machines. An exit door was locked. And the fire extinguishers didn’t work and apparently were there just to impress inspectors and customers.

Though the safety risk posed by Tazreen’s substandard equipments was understood well before Sunday’s blaze, the same conditions appear to be relatively common among Bangladeshi factories. Since 2006, over 200 garment-factory workers have died in workplace fires. After another garment-factory lit up on Monday, the Guardian reported that “[w]orking conditions at Bangladeshi factories are notoriously poor, with little enforcement of safety laws, and overcrowding and locked fire doors are common.”

Read the source story here.

Offshore secrets revealed: the shadowy side of a booming industry

The Guardian
The existence of an extraordinary global network of sham company directors, most of them British, can be revealed.

The UK government claims such abuses were stamped out long ago, but a worldwide joint investigation by the Guardian, the BBC’s Panorama and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has uncovered a booming offshore industry that leaves the way open for both tax avoidance and the concealment of assets.

More than 21,500 companies have been identified using this group of 28 so-called nominee directors. The nominees play a key role in keeping secret hundreds of thousands of commercial transactions. They do so by selling their names for use on official company documents, using addresses in obscure locations all over the world.

This is not illegal under UK law, and sometimes nominee directors have a legitimate role. But our evidence suggests this particular group of directors only pretend to control the companies they put their names to.

Read the source story here.

Florida Republicans Admit Voter Suppression Was The Goal Of New Election Laws

Think Progress
Floridians endured election chaos and marathon voting lines this year, largely thanks to reduced early voting hours, voter purges, and voter registration restrictions pushed by Republican legislators. In an exclusive report by the Palm Beach Post, several prominent Florida Republicans are now admitting that these election law changes were geared toward suppressing minority and Democratic votes.

Former governor Charlie Crist (R-FL) and former GOP chairman Jim Greer (R-FL), as well as several current GOP members, told the Post that Republican consultants pushed the new measures as a way to suppress Democratic voters. Crist expanded early voting hours in 2008 despite party pressure, but Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) targeted early voting almost immediately when he took office in 2011. Scott’s administration claimed the new laws were meant to curb in-person voter fraud, despite the fact that an individual in Florida is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

Read the source story here.

Poor management, not union intransigence, killed Hostess

The Los Angeles Times
Let’s get a few things clear. Hostess didn’t fail for any of the reasons you’ve been fed. It didn’t fail because Americans demanded more healthful food than its Twinkies and Ho-Hos snack cakes. It didn’t fail because its unions wanted it to die.

It failed because the people that ran it had no idea what they were doing. Every other excuse is just an attempt by the guilty to blame someone else.

Take the notion that Hostess was out of step with America’s healthful-food craze. You’d almost think that Hostess failed because it didn’t convert its product line into one based on green vegetables. Yet you only have to amble down the cookie aisle at your supermarket or stroll past the Cinnabon kiosk at the airport to know that there are still handsome profits to be made from the sale of highly refined sugary garbage.

It’s true that the company had done almost nothing in the last 10 years to modernize or expand its offerings. But as any of the millions of Americans who have succumbed to Twinkie cravings can attest, there has always been something about their greasy denseness and peculiar aftertaste that place them high among the ranks of foodstuffs that can be perfectly satisfying without actually being any good.

Hostess management’s efforts to blame union intransigence for the company’s collapse persisted right through to the Thanksgiving eve press release announcing Hostess’ liquidation, when it cited a nationwide strike by bakery workers that “crippled its operations.”

Read the source story here.

Pension ruling could hobble state budget

The Olympian
One of the biggest recent cuts propping up the state budget is suddenly in doubt.

A judge has ruled that the Legislature acted illegally last year when it eliminated an annual increase in benefits to retirees in two older state pension plans.

The eventual hit to the budget could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars per year starting with the current 2011-2013 budget and force new cuts, taxes or other budget moves. But don’t expect the ruling to prompt those choices — or put any extra money into the pockets of government retirees — right away.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham filed his decision Nov. 9 but has yet to issue a final order. The state would then have a chance to appeal, a process that could take months or even years.

“It’s definitely a big victory, and really says that when you promise something, you are obligated to give it,” said Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, one of the groups that sued. “I think realistically though, the state is going to appeal Judge Wickham’s decision, so I don’t think the Legislature will grapple with that issue for some time.”

Read the source story here.

Romney’s 47 Percent Chickens Come Home to Roost

Crooks and Liars
As the final 2012 vote tallies come in from all over the country, it’s clear that Barack Obama didn’t just squeak by, but will win by over three percentage points, leaving Mitt Romney with 47 percent of the popular vote.

Yes, Mitt was prophetic about that 47 percent. He just gave them to the wrong guy.

Here are some other stats that might be worth remembering and reminding Democrats in Congress about every time they start wavering on grand bargains. Via The Nation:

1. Barack Obama has won an overwhelming majority in the Electoral College, a daunting majority of the popular vote and a majority of the nation’s states—including most of the country’s largest states and states in every major region of the republic: New England, the mid-Atlantic, the Great Lakes, the South, the Southwest, the Mountain West and the West.

2. Barack Obama has won more popular votes than any Democratic candidate for president in history—except Barack Obama in 2008.

3. Barack Obama is the first Democratic president to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote in a re-election run since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944.

4. Barack Obama is the only Democratic candidate for president since FDR to twice win more than 50 percent of the national vote.

5. Barack Obama has, in both of his presidential runs, won a higher percentage of the national vote than any Democratic nominee since Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide victory.

Mandate much? As for those 47 percent who either voted against their own interests or simply are selfish, antisocial people, they can look to their billionaires for solace.

47 percent it was, Mitt. You built that.

Read the source story here.

Conservative Groups Team Up To Fight Renewable Energy: ‘We’re Going To See A Knock-Out, Drag-Out Fight’

Think Progress
Six months after rolling out a disastrous billboard campaign that linked people who care about global warming to the Unabomber, the Heartland Institute is looking for another project to boost its profile.

And what better way for the organization to mend its tarnished image than to go after a policy that Americans overwhelmingly support?

The Heartland Institute, known for its campaigns to cast doubt about the science of climate change, is now teaming up with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to craft laws repealing state-level renewable energy targets. ALEC is best known as a “stealth business lobbyist” that helps corporate interests write and pass legislation friendly to their interests. This spring, the organization came under fire for its role in pushing Stand-Your-Ground laws that opponents blamed for the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Both the Heartland Institute and ALEC lost major funders throughout the spring as a result of the separate controversies.

Read the source story here.