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Black Friday and Corporate Greed in America - A coat so cheap the man who made it starves

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

If you're reading this article, then your Catholic identity is probably pretty important to you. You appreciate Catholic values and you try to live them in your daily life. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things out there designed specifically to undermine your values, often without your knowledge. The holidays are a prime example.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The holidays are filled with shopping, among other things. It's a good time for we, who treat ourselves to egg-nog and peppermint-flavored treats, who enjoy shopping for bargains, and look forward to a couple of hearty holiday meals surrounded by the warmth of a fire as well as faith, family, and friends.

However, there's a growing chorus of voices that are out there to tell us that much of our collective holiday cheer is sung and danced upon the backs of a growing multitude of low-wage workers who are asked to sacrifice their holidays so we might enjoy ours. Worse, this isn't about people who choose to work, but rather people who are forced to work and paid so little they rely on the government dole to make ends meet.

And they can forget about a fancy turkey feast.

According to the Huffington Post, companies such as Kroger, Starbucks, Wal Mart, and McDonald's pay so little to their employees that these individuals can't afford much holiday cheer. Many work on Thanksgiving now, since the rest of America is addicted to shopping-just hours after telling God and each other how thankful they are, and few can afford a proper holiday dinner.

Case and point, McDonald's employees are actively told by the company to seek out social services, such as food stamps, to feed their families. That's right. Your value-menu item costs more than you think.

You may pay a dollar for a burger, but you also have to pay more in taxes to provide public assistance for every worker that makes your sandwich. Suddenly the value menu isn't such a value anymore.

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So who's eating the profits?

Apparently the CEOs and executives are slurping at the trough while the workers toil to keep them fat and happy.

Have a look at these numbers from HuffPo. Employee pay figures are averages.

Starbucks
U.S. workforce: 120,000
CEO compensation: $28.9 million
Employee pay: Less than $9/hr
Revenue: $13.3 billion
Net income: $1.4 billion

TJX Companies (TJ Maxx)
U.S. workforce: 138,211 (est.)
CEO compensation: $21.8 million
Employee pay: Less than $8/hr
Revenue: $25.9 billion
Net income: $1.9 billion

Macy's
U.S. workforce: 175,700
CEO compensation: $13.8 million
Employee pay: Less than $9/hr
Revenue: $27.7 billion
Net income: $1.3 billion

Darden Restaurants
U.S. workforce: 203,389 (est.)
CEO compensation: $6.4 million
Employee pay: Minimum wage, usually less than $10/hr. Some staff earn tips, which are shared, but not all. Common in the food service industry.
Revenue: $8.6 billion
Net income: $412 million

Sears
U.S. workforce: 246,000
CEO compensation: $1.3 million (Louis D'Ambrosio, former CEO)
Employee pay: Less than $8/hr
Revenue: $39.9 billion
Net income: -$930 million
Note: Sears is failing as a company and sales are slipping.

Yum! Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, etc)
U.S. workforce: 694,712 (est.)
CEO compensation: $14.2 million
Employee pay: Less than $8/hr
Revenue: $13.6 billion
Net income: $1.6 billion

Kroger
U.S. workforce: 343,000
CEO compensation: $11.1 million
Employee pay: Less than $9/hr
Revenue: $96.8 billion
Net income: $1.5 billion

Target
U.S. workforce: 361,000
CEO compensation: $20.6 million
Employee pay: less than $9/hr
Revenue: $73.3 billion
Net income: $3.0 billion

McDonald's
U.S. workforce: 739,055 (est.)
CEO compensation: $13.8 million
Employee pay: minimum wage
Revenue: $27.6 billion
Net income: $5.5 billion

Walmart
U.S. workforce: 1.4 million
CEO compensation: $20.7 million
Employee pay: Less than $9/hr
Revenue: $469 billion
Net income: $17.0 billion

WalMart has a special place on this list. The company is starting its Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving day at 6 p.m. which will rob most of its associates of their family time. The company pays so little that at several locations, it's asking other employees to donate to food drives, for fellow employees.

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That's right. The richest retail company in America is asking its lowest paid employees to share with their fellow employees instead of just paying a fair wage.

In addition to being denied a fair living wage, many employees are kept deliberately at part-time status, to prevent any requirement to provide benefits.

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Most Americans look upon these jobs as "starter jobs" or stepping stones. Places where young people can work their way through college and mature folks can earn a few extra dollars. Yet, this isn't the reality and hasn't been for a long time.

College, for one, costs tens of thousands of dollars, even to attend cheaply. To cover the costs students must take out loans. College savings are no longer enough to pay for costs which outstripped savings years ago. Students are attending college and graduating under mountains of debt.

Then, they must find jobs in a very competitive workforce where degrees are losing their value. Even high-end, high-skilled occupations are losing their demand for talent as more complex processes become automated or require less skill and attention.

In addition to the college multitudes who can't find jobs to pay off their crushing student loan debt, there is a large number of people, many born into poverty, who never make it as far as college. They're sometimes lucky to finish high school. They, along with migrant workers, make up the backbone of America's cheap labor industry.

All this keeps prices low and profits high, for which CEOs are lavishly rewarded. Shareholders also appreciate the bump.

However, we are na´ve to think this ends here.

Our nation bears an awful burden because half of its citizens don't even earn enough money to pay taxes. At least that same half also relies on government services to make ends meet. This is the multitude that will flock to Obamacare for Medicaid, a cost the working few left among us will bear.

Ultimately, this pattern can't continue. The days of the value menu, and dollar store, and cheap big-box shopping are drawing to a close. The age of outrageous CEO compensation while employees are asked to share a turkey, is coming to an end.

No nation, which denies to half of its people the right to work and earn a reasonable living can long expect to stand.

When half the population is reliant on government, how do you think they will vote? What policies will they adopt? Yes, the corporations and the wealthy own Congress, but it's just a matter of time before a "man of the people" emerges, tapping into the anger of half-a-nation or more and turns that against our long-beloved Republic.

It's happened before, since the days of ancient Rome. It will happen again.

So change is inevitable. We must then decide how we will effect this change. We can ignore the numbers and persist in our habits until one day the revolution takes us by surprise sleeping in our McMansions, or we can control the chaos by averting it altogether.

Cleaning up our government, curtailing outright greedy business practices, mandating that corporations, particularly large ones, pay their employees so the taxpayers don't have to. Everybody who wants to work should be allowed at least 40 hours in some occupation. And nobody who works 40 hours should require government assistance.

Whatever policies we need to implement to arrive at this safe destination, we need to develop them now. Nobody wants to live in a socialist state. It's a cure that's worse than the disease. Yet it's just what's coming if we don't demand change from our politicians and our corporate leadership.

Of course, you can start by staying home this Thanksgiving and instead of busting doors, bust prayers and enjoy your family.

Live your Catholic values.

Don't abide the hype. Let workers have their holidays too-- they're not all volunteers, and they're not being paid generously enough to put up with the experience shoppers put them through on Black Friday.

At the very least, avoid the top 10 on the list above. Those are the worst offenders. They may stand as paragons of the free market, but I assure you they might as well be flying socialist banners from their corporate headquarters. By condemning their choice-less, thankless workers to lives of deepening poverty, that's precisely what they're doing to our beloved country.

I pity the man who wants a coat so cheap that the man or woman who produces the cloth or shapes it into a garment will starve in the process. -President Benjamin Harrison.


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