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Dear Candidate Clinton: Disclosure isn’t enough

SOLD flagKudos to Hillary Clinton for making stock buybacks into an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign.  Most Americans don’t realize just how much money corporations spend buying back their own stock, rather than creating jobs.  It’s probably the biggest, ugliest secret of our troubled economy.

But Candidate Clinton doesn’t go far enough.

Her speech yesterday called for more-timely disclosure of buybacks. But just like with #MoneyInPolitics, public disclosure isn’t going to fix the problem.  We need to restore the laws that used to protect us, back when we had a Middle Class.

Disclosure hasn’t solved the problem of our politicians being bought by corporations and the ultra-wealthy.  Everybody knows that the Koch Brothers plan to spend almost a billion dollars buying themselves a president in 2016.  They announced it in the press.  They’re proud of it.  Disclosure isn’t stopping them.  Ever since they made the announcement, they’ve had a steady stream of sycophantic candidates “interviewing” with them, seeking their support.

Anyone who’s watching Big Oil knows that the industry has been busy buying politicians.  Starting with the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Environment, Jim Inhofe.  Disclosure hasn’t made a difference.  He’s proud of the money he gets from Big Oil: “Whenever the media asked me how much I have received in campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, my unapologetic answer was ‘not enough’.”

Disclosure hasn’t fixed the problem of #MoneyInPolitics.  And it’s not going to fix the problem of stock buybacks, either.

WWYD_707_billionBefore the Securities and Exchange Commission created its “Safe Harbor Rule” in 1982, stock buybacks were almost unheard-of.  Now, they’re one of the top priorities of corporate executives.  Last year, corporations spent more than $556 billion buying back their own stock.  This year, they’re expected to spend $707 billion.

The ugly secret of our “trickle-down” economy: corporations are spending enormous amounts of money consolidating their ownership.   Rather than, say, expanding their businesses, hiring new employees or even paying existing employees a living wage.

(Can’t help but notice the trend of corporations focused on stock buybacks, while their employees need public assistance programs to make ends meet.  WalmartMcDonaldsBig Banks.)

Disclosure isn’t going to solve this.  Corporations are proud of their buyback programs.  They announce buybacks in press releases.

Just like the Koch Brothers used the press to announce their intention to buy a president.

Somebody needs to tell Secretary Clinton: the SEC’s 1982 “Safe Harbor Rule” is the regulatory equivalent of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.  It enables corporations to do things that are really, really bad for our country.

But unlike Citizens United, the “Safe Harbor Rule” is an administrative regulation. It can be changed or repealed by the administrative agency.

And SEC members are appointed by the President.

Clinton could be pledging to only appoint SEC Commissioners who will repeal the rule.  Instead, she’s just looking for more disclosure.

Clinton deserves a whole lot of credit for raising the issue, and for talking about the impact that stock buybacks are having on our economy.

But it would be even better if she would go one step further, and talk about a solution that would actually fix the problem.

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Read more NHLN coverage of stock buybacks here.

Read Marketwatch, “Wall Street’s new drug is the stock buyback” here.

PayWatch.Org Highlights Growing Inequality Between CEO’s And Workers

2015 Executive PayWatch highlights Walmart at center of growing inequality crisis

www.PayWatch.org

paywatch2015_437x231

(Washington, DC)As Americans rally behind a robust raising wages agenda for working families, CEO pay for major U.S. companies has skyrocketed. According to the new AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, CEO pay increased nearly 16 percent in 2014.

The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive searchable online database which tracks CEO pay, showed that in 2014, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned approximately $36,000 per year, while S&P 500 company CEO pay averaged $13.5 million per year – a ratio which has grown to 373-to-1.

“America faces an income inequality crisis because corporate CEOs have taken the raising wages agenda and applied it only to themselves,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Big corporations spend freely on executive perks and powerful lobbyists to strip rights from workers, but when it comes to lifting up the wages of workers that make their companies run, they’re nowhere to be found. Too often workers are seen as costs to be cut, rather than assets to be invested in. Americans deserve better from those who have earned so much off the backs of working men and women, and we must start by adding transparency to the CEO pay process and requiring companies disclose their CEO-to-median employee pay ratios.”

Mega-retailer Walmart, highlighted in this year’s PayWatch, represents one of the most egregious examples of CEO-to-worker pay inequality. CEO Douglas McMillon, the nation’s largest employer, earns $9,323 an hour compared to $9 for a beginning employee salary. A new employee would have to work for 1036 hours just to equal the pay McMillon earns in one hour. PayWatch also highlights the wealth of the six Walton family members who have more wealth than 43 percent of America’s families combined.

fb_1200x630_waltonfamily

“In 2013, I earned about $12,000 as a full-time employee, which at Walmart isn’t always 40 hours each week,” said Tiffany, a former Walmart worker who has worked in both Maryland and Louisiana for the company. “These poverty wages force my family to receive public assistance. Walmart doesn’t value me. I believe in working hard and that my work should be valued. This is why I will not stop fighting until Walmart commits to raising wages and begins valuing all of its workers.”

More information about Walmart’s massive CEO-to-worker pay disparity and inequality among S&P 500 companies can be found at www.paywatch.org.

New AFL-CIO Report Exposes Walmart’s Abuse of H-1B Visas

As the annual H-1B visa lottery opens, report shows Walmart’s obsession with cheap labor

http://go.aflcio.org/Walmart-H1B

(Washington, DC) – To mark the opening of the annual H-1B visa lottery, the AFL-CIO released a new report documenting Walmart’s abuse of the visa program.

The report “After Decimating U.S. Manufacturing, Wal-Mart Takes Aim at the Information Technology Sector” contains strong evidence that Walmart and its contractors rely on the H-1B work visa program to meet the company’s routine needs for information technology (IT) labor, potentially displacing U.S. workers. Yet, many of the IT guest workers are denied a path to citizenship. The findings undermine the arguments advanced by corporate lobbyists pushing to expand the program.

“At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability, and reduce social mobility for deserving workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart’s headquarters are located, continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.

Among the most important findings:

• Between 2007 and 2014, IT contractors have filed almost 15,000 petitions (certified LCAs) for H-1B visas for work placed in Bentonville, Arkansas, home to Walmart’s headquarters and information technology center. Walmart is a known client of these controversial outsourcing contractors, including Infosys, Cognizant and Wipro.

• Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1Bs visas and contractors excessively, and violating the spirit, if not the letter of the visa program. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.

• Walmart and its outsourced IT operations at contractors do not hold up their end of the immigration bargain: they rarely apply for green cards for H-1B visa workers. In some years, they submit no green card applications at all.

The H-1B program allows U.S. companies to bring high-skill “guest workers” to the U.S. for up to 6 years. However, the requirement for companies to search for American workers before turning to foreign labor in the H-1B program is not effectively enforced.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, AFL-CIO President Trumka testified that the current H-1B visa program “allows employers to stifle wages, create a captive workforce, and make previously full time jobs insecure and temporary.”

The AFL-CIO has been an outspoken advocate for comprehensive immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship that fixes our broken immigration system.

“As Congress resumes the debate on immigration reform, we hope the Senate will focus on the core flaws in our immigration system that contribute to economic inequality and wage stagnation, rather than advancing low-road employment models that have contributed to the erosion of the middle class,” said Trumka.

The report can be viewed here: http://go.aflcio.org/Walmart-H1B

You Will Not Believe What Wal-Mart is Doing

Image via WikiCommons

Image via WikiCommons

You have got to be kidding me.  

Wal-Mart is rewarding associates who donate money to the Wal-Mart PAC, which works to elect candidates like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz who vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

In this excellent article (Wal-Mart’s Unusual Rewards for Employees Who Give to Its PAC) by Josh Eidelson, he reports:

“Liberal groups and a union-backed Walmart worker group are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) policy of rewarding contributions to its political action committee with donations to charity. Under the policy, every $1 an employee donates to Wal-Mart’s PAC, which supports such probusiness candidates as Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, triggers a $2 donation to a charity for Wal-Mart employees in need.”

Using charitable contributions to reward PAC donations has become a widespread practice among U.S. corporations, which are restricted by law from donating directly to their PACs. At least seven times over the past two decades, FEC commissioners have been divided over whether to restrict companies from matching the political donations with philanthropic cash.

While such companies as Coca-Cola (KO) and Boeing (BA) also match PAC dollars with charity dollars, Wal-Mart’s policy is unusual. Rather than just a 1-to-1 match, it offers 2 to 1. And instead of giving employees a choice of charities to support, it sends all the matching money to its Associates in Critical Need Trust, which benefit employees facing “extreme economic hardship due to situations outside of their control, including natural disasters.”

That’s right, for every one dollar that workers give to the Wal-Mart PAC, the corporation will donate two dollars to their own charity organization for workers who are suffering financial difficulties.

The Associates in Critical Need Trust is a 501 (c)(3) charity that provides “up to $1,500 to employees facing challenges such as homelessness or illness.

Here are three suggestions for Walmart. 1) Start by paying your workers a living wage so they aren’t forced into homelessness. 2) Provide workers with paid sick time so they can heal without the fear of losing their job for being sick. 3)  Provide workers with healthcare so they will not be forced into financial ruin when they become sick or injured. (Note: Wal-Mart just cut another 30,000 part time workers out of their employee healthcare, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act they can get coverage through their state exchange.)

I hope the FEC tears Wal-Mart apart for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Walmart Could, And Should Be Paying $15 An Hour And Would Still Make $10 Billion In Profit

Working families are struggling and Walmart workers symbolize the struggles that millions of Americans are facing.  They work as many hours as their employer will give them and they are still living in poverty.

“If you are a man or woman working full-time in this country, it is a crime for you to still be poor,” said Rabbi Michael Feinberg.  “They (Walmart) have a 1-800 number where the workers call up in order for the corporation to help them connect to social benefits in their state, meaning Medicaid and welfare.”

Walmart workers alone cost the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars a year in social programs. The Americans for Tax Fairness “found that a single Walmart Supercenter cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.75 million per year or between $3,015 and $5,815 on average for each of 300 workers.

Walmart workers have had enough! They are walking out protesting Walmart’s poverty wages and failure to provide full-time employment.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said, “That’s why clergy, labor, school teachers, and workers from all over are here (and) all throughout the country to say to Walmart ‘you got to be fair, you got to be just’.”

Walmart is the largest private employer in the country and collected over $17 billion — yes that is with a B–  in profits in 2013. Let’s not forget that the CEO of Walmart collects an annual salary of $23 million.  To break it down further, that is “1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.”  Is this one man worth more than 1,000 workers? Can he stock the shelves of a 1,000 stores?

A 2013 UC Berkeley study showed that increasing wages to $12.00 an hour would add only $3.21 billion to Walmart’s annual labor costs.  That is not even half of what Walmart spent last year buying back their own stock to inflate their stock price.

If Walmart refused to take any cuts to their profit margin they could pass all of their labor costs on the consumer. This is what the Republicans say will cause the price of mile to jump to $10 a gallon!

The average Walmart customer would see an increase of $12.49 per year – about 46 cents per visit – if Walmart executives passed the total cost along, rather than cutting their profits.

Walmart can easily afford to pay workers $15 an hour, hell they could pay them $30 and hour if they really wanted to and still be a hugely profitable corporation.  In fact Fortune Magazine concluded that Walmart could give every worker a 50% increase in pay and still please their Wall Street investors.

The greed of Walmart is unmatched. Collecting millions of dollars a day in profits while asking  associates to donate to other associates so they can have food for Thanksgiving. (Of course they all had to work Thanksgiving too.)  That takes some really big cojones and a complete lack of respect for the people who are making your company a success.

 

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers for this great video of solidarity for Walmart workers and the members of Making Change at Walmart (OUR Walmart – UFCW). 

Watch the video on YouTube

My Question To The Walton Family: How Much Is Enough?

 

How much money is enough? Do you stop being a greedy capitalist when you no longer care what anything costs? Do you stop when you become one of the named people on the “Richest People In America” lists?  Do you stop when your company make $8.5 million dollars a day in dividends alone? Some people would say, “Never! I will never stop until I own everything!”

This is exactly the case of the Walton Family.  Sam Walton built an empire in Walmart by keeping costs down and providing people with everything they needed in one store.  Somewhere along the way, Sam’s Walmart became WALMART (dun-dun-dah), the monstrous corporation with over one million employees that drives the entire retail industry.  They force other retail shops to compete with their unscrupulous tactics like forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving, paying workers the absolute minimum, and making the majority of employees part-time to avoid having to offer any type of health benefits (forget about retirement – good luck funding that 401k on $7.25 an hour).

The Walton’s still own Walmart and they could be doing so much more for their workers, their communities and their country.  They could pay every worker $15 an hour without having raise any prices or lose out on any profits.  Yet they refuse to pay workers a living wage. In fact the Walmart corporation is one of the biggest opponents to raising the minimum wage.

Lets not forget that we as American taxpayers are subsidizing these low wages with our tax dollars.  Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that the government spends more than $13 billion dollars a year subsidizing the retail industry’s low wages.  With a poverty rate of low-wage workers pushing over 10%, it is no wonder Walmart does food drives for their own employees.

So again I will ask how much money is enough? 

_________________________

The UFCW and Robert Reich teamed up to make this great video (http://youtu.be/_-SMetMkcVI) explaining how Walmart could give millions of Americans a raise right now, if they chose to.

Please watch this video and support a Black Friday Protest near you, visit BlackFridayProtest.org

Think US Manufacturing Is In Trouble Now? Wait Till WALMART Jumps In

photo of 2007 Northcross Mall Wal-Mart protest by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Photo by Kristin Hillery, via flikr

Hey, Richard Trumka! You didn’t need to be so darn diplomatic yesterday. My take: Wal-Mart getting into in US manufacturing is pretty much the LAST thing America’s economy needs right now.

Unless, of course, somebody’s had an attack of conscience and they’ve completely changed their business model.

Really quick, let’s look at Walmart’s business model:

The retailer has a clear policy for suppliers: On basic products that don’t change, the price Wal-Mart will pay, and will charge shoppers, must drop year after year.

Yep, it’s that old ratcheting-down thing. Works the same way as chained-CPI for Social Security benefits. Or, what’s been happening to the middle-class for the last 40 years. Death by a thousand cuts (also known as “creeping normality”). They take a little bit this year, and a little bit more next year, and a little bit more the year after that.  Wal-Mart’s business model:

Wal-Mart also clearly does not hesitate to use its power, magnifying the Darwinian forces already at work in modern global capitalism. …The Wal-Mart squeeze means vendors have to be as relentless and as microscopic as Wal-Mart is at managing their own costs. …Wal-Mart has also lulled shoppers into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. Its unending focus on price underscores something that Americans are only starting to realize: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences.

Why would anybody in their right mind want to apply this business model to US manufacturing? (Other than, of course, the Walton family. But maybe having a bigger fortune than the bottom 42% of Americans, combined, isn’t enough for some people…?)

Isn’t it time to start ratcheting things UP again?

Mr. Trumka, please… save the diplomacy for elsewhere. We gotta stop this Race to the Bottom.

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made in prison labelAnd, oh yeah… something else about “Made in the USA.”

If you haven’t noticed, we’ve got a lot of prisons here in the US. And inmates work for really cheap wages.

That USA-grown organic produce sold at Walmart? Yep.

Stuff that gets returned to Walmart? Yep.

And that may just be the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to ALEC pushing “prison industries enhancement” laws for the past 20 years, there’s now lots and lots of stuff “Made in the USA” behind prison bars. And no way to tell how much of it ends up for sale on retail store shelves. Apparently, in some states, it’s legal to sell prison-made stuff in local stores… as long as it’s not transported across state lines.

Myself, I’m thinking it’s about time for another nationwide product-labeling campaign. So consumers will know exactly where in the USA these products are made.

H/T to the Teamsters for the really great graphic above… and to Dennis Trainor, Jr. and Acronym TV for the video below.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit

In response to Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Summit, which convenes today in Denver, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

“It’s about time Walmart figured out that America’s workers are the most qualified and the best skilled at getting the job done. For decades, Walmart has led the charge on outsourcing and a global race to the bottom.

But workers will not benefit from a Walmart-ification of our manufacturing sector. Jobs in the Walmart model won’t restore America’s middle class or build shared prosperity given the company’s obsession with low labor costs and undermining American labor standards. And the company’s ‘commitment’ to American manufacturing is meaningless unless it actually increases the proportion of its products that are American-made.

This initiative seems like an attempt to change the conversation from the need for Walmart to improve jobs for its 1.4 million retail workers in the United States. If Walmart is truly committed to rebuilding the American middle class, it can start with its own workers, most of whom make less than $25,000/year and struggle to make ends meet.

Walmart should use its two-day summit to prove the company is committed to real and substantive change and an end to corporate whitewashing.”

Non-Union Working Women Face Greater Challenges on the Job

In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families, the labor movement and worker groups are spending this week highlighting the stories of real working families and the challenges they face.

Today we’ll take a look at working women and moms in the workplace with the story from Bene’t Holmes.  Bene’t is a 25-year-old single mother who works at Walmart in Chicago and struggles to survive on low wages.  In February she suffered a miscarriage while at work, after a manager denied her request for job duties that were less physically demanding.  Following her miscarriage, she asked for a leave of absence to recover and was denied that request as well.  Read how Bene’t realized she needed a voice on the job and took action with the OUR Walmart campaign.

A quote from Bene’t’s story

“….Besides feeling betrayed by Walmart I questioned how a company that champions family could be so cold and heartless when one of its own employees is dealing with a tragedy.

I had to act—no woman should ever be put in that position again. I used my story to speak out and empower other women….”

On the policy front, the Center for Economic Policy and Research is out with a new study on women, working families and unions.  The study concludes that “firms with a union presence were 22 percent more likely to allow workers to take parental leave for a new child, 16 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for their own illness, 12 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave for pregnancy, and 19 percent more likely to allow workers to take medical leave to care for a family member.”  View the full study here

Follow the conversation on social media at #WFSpeakUp and #WorkingFamilies.  Or visit the AFL-CIO blog for more stories from working families. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog

AFL-CIO Wraps up Week of Activity in Support of Walmart Workers

Image via WikiCommon

Image via WikiCommon

Working Families Take to the Streets Leading up to Walmart’s Shareholders Meeting

Washington, DC – This week working families and Walmart moms across the country hit the streets to protest Walmart’s egregious workplace policies.  And this afternoon Walmart moms are rallying outside of the Walmart Supercenter in Washington, D.C., in protest of the company’s illegal firings and disciplinary action against co-workers who have struck to end illegal retaliation and spoken out for better jobs for their families.

On Monday AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on people to stand with Walmart moms going on strike: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Why-We-Should-All-Support-the-Moms-on-Strike-Against-Walmart

On Wednesday the AFL-CIO named Rob Walton, Chairman of Walmart the “Low Wage Villain of the Week”: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Low-Wage-Villain-of-the-Week-Rob-Walton

On Thursday AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler penned an open letter to working women in support of Walmart moms: http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Walmart-Moms-Their-Fight-Is-Our-Fight

Today AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre will join Walmart moms in Washington, DC to call on new Walmart CEO, Doug McMillon, to publicly commit to take the company in a new direction.

The strike follows a series of events in Phoenix, Ariz., where Walmart moms tried todiscuss their concerns of low pay directly with board chairman Rob Walton in his neighborhood.

Worker shareholders who are OUR Walmart members —including many striking moms—are set to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday, June 6 in Bentonville, Ark., to take their concerns directly to shareholders.

The annual shareholders meeting will begin as Walmart workers—part of the three-year old national organization OUR Walmart—make significant strides in changing policies of the country’s largest employer. Recently, Walmart upgraded its pregnancy policy after OUR Walmart memberswho are also shareholders submitted a resolution to the company about its discriminatory pregnancy policy. And,responding to OUR Walmart members’ growing calls on the retailer to improve access to hours, Walmart rolled out a new system nationwidethat allows workers to sign up for open shifts in their stores online.

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