Screwing The American Worker

Minimum Wage.jpeg

So someone came to me today complaining that their company was messing with them. 


The employee was earning above minimum wage after several years in their line of work


And now their company wants to cut their salary claiming tight budgets. 


But get this:


– Instead of speaking with the employee, they send the employee a text message telling them they are going to cut their salary, and when the employee tries to call them, they don’t even pick up the phone or call back. 


– The company decides unilaterally that they will cut the employee salary by $1.50 an hour or a whopping 12.5% to this person!


– And this company is going to actually pay the employee below minimum wage!


Apparently, this company hires a lot of immigrants who don’t know the law and are only here for a short time, so this company disgustingly “gets away with it!”


But this employee is an American citizen and he is rightfully furious–as we all should be.


So Montgomery County, Maryland–a very liberal county–just raised the minimum wage to $11.50 effective July 1. 


Do you know what that comes out to at 40 hours per week–less than $24,000 annually.


That’s less than the poverty level for a typical family of four. 


Imagine what this person has left after taxes and carfare to get to work–not much!


I have gotten to know this person and they are a good, decent, hardworking human being, and they have suffered in their lifetime–why do they need to be treated like this and forced to earn even LESS THAN minimum wage. 


They are worried that if they say anything then they will be even worse off–they don’t want to be seen as trouble. 


How many times does this or a similar situation happen to innocent workers where they are mistreated, taken advantage of, abused, harassed, or even worse–but because they need the job and the money they are afraid to say or do anything to protect themselves.


We are the United States of America–one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations on Earth–is this how we treat our citizens?


People deserve to work and earn a decent days pay for a honest days work–a genuine living wage!


They also deserve core worker benefits like health care and a decent retirement. 


And they should be able to do their work free from workplace harassment and abuse. 


There must be not only fundamental laws that protect people, but also the enforcement mechanisms to make it really work. 


This gets to the heart of America–do we still have one? 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Workers Getting Choked

Workers Getting Choked

Took this picture today of a worker protest outside of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Washington, D.C.

It’s a big blow up of a “fat cat” symbolically choking a worker.

You can see the reflection of the American flag in the window above the blow up cat.

And the guy off to the left leaning against the barrier is wearing the same shirt as the blowup worker.

Not sure why they were having this protest or how they were allowed to erect this right in front of OPM.

Hope they resolve this quickly–because this is some bad “public relations” to be seen in front of the agency that manages Human Resources for the Federal government.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Amazon Will Bury Walmart

Walmart_mess

I’ve never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart–and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart–shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let’s just say, I’m not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon–now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face “everyday low prices” image and we won’t let you forget it–instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs–that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they’ve hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out–Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site–which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon’s–Amazon is eating Walmart’s lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon’s online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart’s. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart’s 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales–they just can’t seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it’s high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline–it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around–and as for the matchup betweent them, it won’t even be close.  😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)