Bill Knight column for Mon., Tues. or Wed., Jan. 14, 15 or 16
Most everyday Americans routinely tip servers at sit-down restaurants, but after considering a recent list of the dozen U.S. companies that pay employees the least, consumers may want to start tipping fast-food workers and clerks at familiar department stores, too.
The list of 12 companies – let’s call them the “Dirty (Low-Down) Dozen” – is made up of either large national restaurant chains that employ tens of thousands of cooks and cashiers, or large national retailers, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).
Two-thirds of low-wage workers – those paid less than $10 an hour – are employed by large corporations with at least 100 employees, NELP reports. Besides low wages, many of these companies have histories of poor labor relations that include long hours, unsafe or unpleasant working conditions, and lousy benefits.
Further, despite the current federal minimum wage the workers are often paid – worth 30% less than it was in 1968 in terms of purchasing power, NELP shows – most of this dozen make record profits and have high executive pay.
The recession has affected every company, but on this list, only two reported losses last year. Nevertheless, most use the economic downturn to justify cutting benefits, laying off staff, increasing hours, and maintaining low pay levels.
It’s tempting to present a backward “Top 12,” mimicking NBC’s David Letterman, but the “Dirty (Low-Down) Dozen” label is probably already stretching the amusement. Employees at these places sure aren’t laughing:
1. Walmart (U.S. workforce: 1.4 million) has CEO compensation of $18,131,738. Its 3,868 U.S. stores reported a net income of $15.70 billion.
2. Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell – U.S. workforce: 880,330) has CEO compensation of $20,411,852. Its 16,006 locations reported a net income of $1.33 billion.
3. McDonald’s (U.S. workforce: 859,978) has CEO compensation of $4,073,748. Its 14,098 locations reported a net income of $5.50 billion.
4. Target (U.S. workforce: 365,000) has CEO compensation of $19,707,107. Its 1,763 stores reported a net income of $2.93 billion.
5. Sears (U.S. workforce: 264,000) has CEO compensation of $9,932,924. Its 3,510 stores reported revenues of $41.57 billion and a net loss of $3.11 billion.
6. Burger King (U.S. workforce: 191,815) has CEO compensation of $4,015,619. Its 7,453 restaurants reported a net income of $107.0 million.
7. Starbucks (U.S. workforce: 176,533) has CEO compensation of $16,079,480. It’s 12,903 locations reported a net income of $1.38 billion.
8. DineEquity (Applebee’s, IHOP – U.S. workforce: 173,350) has CEO compensation of $5,392,402. Its 3,569 restaurants reported a net income of $75.2 million.
9. Macy’s (U.S. workforce: 171,000) has CEO compensation of $17,650,702. Its 842 stores reported a net income of $1.26 billion.
10. Wendy’s (U.S. workforce: 168,672) has CEO compensation of $16,537,725. Its 6,594 restaurants reported a net income of $12.9 million.
11. Darden Restaurants (LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster – U.S. workforce: 165,475) has its highest executive compensation set at $8,480,148. Its 1,994 locations reported revenues a net income of $475.5 million.
12. J.C. Penney (U.S. workforce: 159,000) has its highest executive compensation set at $53,281,505. Its 1,102 stores reported revenues of $17.26 billion and a net loss of $152 million.
Like a lot of folks, I’ve shopped or eaten at these joints, especially Target and Olive Garden. But until the corporations improve, I’m going to look for alternatives. If I do go there again, I’ll make a point of being more understanding, sympathetic and generous with the employees. (After all, their bosses aren’t.)
Meanwhile, last month, hundreds of New York City workers at some of these places –
Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s – went on strike for a day. At a coordinated rally with fast-food workers, plus airport, car-wash and grocery workers who have won labor battles in recent months, demonstrators’ march went on for blocks.
“The one-day strikes held by the fast-food workers, like the recent wave of strikes at Walmarts around the country, are something different from a traditional strike,” reported Sarah Jaffe, an independent journalist who frequently contributes to AlterNet.
Joshua Freeman, a history professor at CUNY’s Queens College, added, “We’re seeing labor being absolutely central to American politics once again. We’re seeing a zillion battles across the country in state capitols, in front of McDonalds, in warehouses, in the port of Los Angeles. Difficult times for working people have put these questions on the forefront. Labor’s on the defensive, but occasionally on the offensive also.”
The nonpartisan 24/7Wallst.com web site details NELP’s list -- http://247wallst.com/2012/11/21/the-12-companies-paying-americans-the-least/
[PICTURED: Illustration from the Support Restaurant Opportunities Centers United’s “Dignity at Darden” campaign, from foodchainworkers.org]