7 Ultra-Rich Companies Rake in Profits While Paying Workers Peanuts
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“The majority of people in our job carry three cards -- that’s our Walmart associate card, our discount card, and a welfare card. New York does not need a retailer that will take sustainable, quality jobs away from these neighborhoods by creating low-wage jobs,” Girshriela Green, a member of OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), told United NY and ALIGN. It's a common refrain that you hear repeated from Walmart employees around the country— AlterNet heard the same story recently from workers in Los Angeles. Walmart is by far the country's largest low-wage employer, with a US workforce of 1,400,000 people, according to NELP. And last year its highest-paid exec took home $18.1 million, or $9,066 an hour.
But even that's not the most shocking Walmart statistic making the rounds these days. Nope, instead we've just learned that the Walton family—just six family members of Walmart founder Sam Walton— have as much wealth between them as the bottom 48.8 million American families combined. That's over 41 percent of the country. Or at least, that's what they had in 2010. Considering that between 2007 and 2010, they went from having $73.3 billion to $89.5 billion, who knows what they've got now?
3. Con Edison
New York's energy company is in the headlines right now for its lockout of 8,500 skilled workers, the folks who keep the city's power grid running and keep the air conditioning flowing during record heat. “And they say we have to cut costs, to keep the stock profitable... They don't answer to us, they don't answer to the customers out on the street,” a Con Edison mechanic told AlterNet's Michelle Chen.
But that's not Con Ed's only labor problem. The company's cleaning crew and security contractors make as little as $8 an hour, according to United NY and ALIGN's report. Meanwhile, Con-Ed's president and CEO, Kevin Burke, made nearly $11 million last year, the equivalent of $5,272 per hour. The report notes:
In other words, a cleaner making $8.00 per hour would need to work 659 hours or 16.5 weeks to earn what Burke makes per hour. Burke received an increase in 2011 of $688,653, which alone equals the annual wages of 41 cleaners earning $8 hourly.
Instead of an increase like Burke received, contracted cleaners at Con Ed’s headquarters recently had their salaries cut from as little as $9 to $8.50 per hour. Instead of ensuring that their contracted workers are making enough money to support their families, Con Ed has been rewarding its CEO enough to enable him to maintain at least three homes – a Westhampton Beach, NY home worth nearly $1 million, an Upper East Side apartment worth $1.5 million, and a house that he bought for $2.3 million in 2011 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Con Edison made over $1 billion in profits last year—and spent $2 million lobbying over the last two years, in part against a law that would've required it to pay those contracted low-wage workers a decent living.
4. Lage Management Corp Car Washes
For a city that runs on public transit, New York still has a lot of car washes—and they're some of the worst offenders when it comes to abusing low-wage workers. New York's Department of Labor investigated the industry in 2008 and found that over 78 percent of the city's car washes were violating minimum wage and overtime laws, 39 percent had managers pocketing workers' tips, and a quarter didn't provide meal breaks for workers. When ALIGN and United NY surveyed 5,000 car wash workers this year, they found that only 23 percent of them were offered protective gear to keep them safe from the harsh chemicals they use to leave customers' vehicles sparkling.