Time to Require Corporations to be Socially Responsible

Reposted from LinkedIn Article

It is time we make our corporations be more accountable to ethical and social responsibilities. Expectations for reduced expenses, increased profits and higher bonuses to executives and greater returns for stockholders can’t be derived at the detriment of employees and increased burden to taxpayers. I just finished reading Elizabeth Warren’s book, “This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class ,” and it left me feeling an urgent need to do something!

I grew up as a second generation Asian American with a father on social security at an early retirement from civil engineering and military service. This required my stay at home mother to go to work and be a minimum wage housekeeper since she could not read and write English. To my surprise today, with this meager income of less than twenty-five thousand dollars a year, my family was able to support two children, a home mortgage and pay all our bills in a small bedroom community of Portland, Oregon called Vancouver, WA. We were by no means rich but we weren’t super poor either. I enjoyed playing sports, being on student government, singing in choir, having lots of friends in different classes, genders and ethnicities, having great healthcare at Kaiser Permanente and no stigma of being a poor person of color. We were a lower middle-class family. Today, we would be in poverty. We would not own a home but rent, visiting the food bank, struggle with healthcare, be challenged keeping up with bills and probably could only pay for clothing at Goodwill. It is a travesty that someone working a full-time minimum wage job with a spouse that served our country can’t afford to live and make ends meet. We must fix this as Americans!

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I want to quote a few paragraphs’ from Mrs. Warren’s book, …

“Gina says she feels lucky to have a job, but she is pretty blunt about what it is like to work at Walmart: she hates it. She’s worked at her local Walmart for nine years, spending long hours on her feet waiting on customers and wrestling with heavy merchandise around the store. But that is not the part that galls her.

Last year, management told the employees they would get a significant raise. While driving to work or sorting laundry, Gina thought about how she could spend that extra money. Do repairs around the house. Or set aside a few dollars in case an emergency. Or help her sons, because “that’s what a mom does.”… 

Then the day arrives when she received the letter informing her of the raise: 21 cents an hour. For a grand total of $1.68 a day, $8.40 a week.

Gina described holding the letter and looking at it and feeling like it was “a spit in your face.” As she talked about the minuscule raise, her voice filled with anger. Anger, tinged with fear. Walmart could dump all over her, but she would have to take it. She still needed this job. They could treat her like dirt, and she would still have to show up. And that is exactly what they did.

In 2015, Walmart made $14.69 billion in profits and Walmart’s investors pocketed $10.4 billion from dividends and shareholder repurchases—and Gina got 21 cents an hour more. This isn’t a story of shared sacrifice. It’s not a story about a company that is struggling to keep the doors open in tough times. This isn’t a small business that can’t afford generous raises. Just the opposite: this is a fabulously wealthy company making big bucks off the Ginas of the world. 

There are seven members of the Walton family, Walmart’s major shareholders, on the Forbes list of the country’s four hundred richest people, and together these seven Walton’s have as much wealth as about 130 million Americans… Walmart routinely squeezes its workers, not because it has to, but because it can…

Walmart is the largest employer in the country. More than a million and a half Americans are working to make this corporation among the most profitable in the world. Meanwhile, Gina points out that at her store, “almost all the young people are on food stamps.” And its not just her store. Across the country, Walmart pays such low wages that many of its employees rely on food stamps, rent assistance, Medicaid, and a mix of other government benefits, just to stay out of poverty. 

The next time you drive into a Walmart parking lot, pause a second to note Walmart—like the more than five thousand other Walmarts in the country—costs taxpayers about $1 million in direct subsidies to the employees who don’t earn enough money to pay for an apartment, buy food, or get even the most basic health care for their children. In total, Walmart benefits from more than $7 billion in subsidies each year from taxpayers like you. Those “low, low prices” are made possible by low, low wages—and the taxes you pay to keep those workers alive on their low, low pay…

Walmart isn’t alone. Every year, employers like retailers and fast food outlets pay wages that are so low that the rest of America ponies up a collective $153 billion to subsidize their workers. Anyone want to guess what we could do with that mountain of money? We could pay public college tuition- free and pay for preschool for every child- and still have billions left over. We could almost double the amount we spend on veteran’s services, such as disability, long-term care, and end homelessness. We could double all federal research and development—everything: medical, scientific, engineering, climate science, behavioral heath, chemistry, brain mapping, dug addiction, even defense research. Or we could double federal spending on transportation and water infrastructure…

Gina describes life at Walmart is a constant fight to get enough hours to support her family. Walmart deliberately over hires, which then puts workers in competition for shifts. Even though she has worked at her Walmart for nearly a decade, she doesn’t get her work schedule far enough in advance to plan a trip to the dentist. And she doesn’t know how many hours she will get each week and if she will have enough money to cover the basics…She talks about a friend who is trying to support herself and little boy on a Walmart paycheck. She needs more hours. She was trying to do better, so she was taking classes at the community college at night. Nicole was available every day and five evenings every week, but she needed Tuesday and Thursday nights off, so she could go to class. They wouldn’t give it to her. They use the schedule as punishment… Gina and her friend feels like their positions at the company are always unsteady…”

I hope you are outraged and furious! I understand that there are many people in our great Nation who cannot afford to stop shopping at Walmart, but we can make them hurt. We can show them that they cannot have these practices and still have a loyal customer base. We must force them to act ethically, morally and socially responsible as an American company. The only way they will do this is if their bottom line is affected. MY CALL TO ACTION IS: Tell all your friends, family and acquaintances that the last Friday of the month we all boycott Walmart. That every last Friday of the month, Walmart will be open and not have one customer or sale in the estimated over 5000 stores. This will incur millions of dollars of lost revenues for Walmart and require them to proactively do something! If we hold all minimum wage corporations accountable in the same way, we can begin to see a difference for a large portion of our American middle-class population. No American who is working hard, doing all the right things should live in poverty in this day and age. PLEASE STAND WITH ME IN OUTRAGE, share this story with your friends and please BOYCOTT Walmart the last FRIDAY of every month! Thank you, Elizabeth Warren for getting this information out!

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