Corporations aren’t staffed by faceless machines. They’re staffed by men and women.
And those men and women take their marching orders from the man (usually) or woman at the top.
Thus, you can learn a great deal about a CEO–and his company–by the way his employees are treated.
Consider the differences between Walmart and Costco.
Costco: In 2011, its revenues stood at $89 billion.
Walmart: In 2011, its revenues stood at $447 billion. But profits declined by 4.6%, to $15.7 billion.
Costco: About 88% of Costco employees have company-supplied health insurance. “I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” Craig Jelinek, Costco’s CEO and president, told Bloomberg. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple.”
Walmart: In January, 2014, the nation’s largest private employer will deny health insurance to newly hired employees who work less than 30 hours a week.
Walmart eliminates healthcare coverage for certain workers if their average work-week falls below 30 hours–which regularly happens at the direction of company managers.
Walmart has refused to say how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers are likely to lose medical insurance under its new policy.
Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program.
Of course, if they live in any of the 26 Republican-controlled states refusing to expand Medicaid coverage, they’ll wind up with nothing.
“Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 2005, Susan Chambers, Walmart’s then-Vice President of Benefits, outlined how the company could remove sick workers from payrolls and avoid paying healthcare benefits.
Three major studies–in Georgia, Massachusetts and California–found Walmart employees to be the ones most reliant on government aid. Annually, Walmart employees cost taxpayers more than $1 billion nationwide.
Costco: Pays a living wage, with its employees starting as $11.50 per hour. The average employee wage is $21 per hour, not including overtime.
Walmart: Most Walmart workers earn less than $20,000 a year. According to Bloomberg News, the average Walmart Associate makes just $8.81 per hour.
Costco: Its CEO and president, Craig Jelinek, made about $4.83 million in 2012.
Walmart: CEO Mike Duke made roughly $19.3 million in 2012.
According to CNN Money: Walmart’s CEO makes as much as 796 average employees. Costco’s CEO makes 48 times more than the company’s median wage.
Costco: Costco closed for Thanksgiving, giving its employees time to spend with their families.
Walmart: Forced its employees–on pain of being fired–to open its stores nationwide at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Costco: Hires from within. More than 70% percent of its warehouse managers began their careers working the floor or the register.
Walmart: Facing mounting criticism for its low salaries, Walmart, on October 29, announced that it would promote more than 25,000 employees by the end of January, 2014.
Costco: The annual turnover rate for employees who have worked at the company for more than one year is less than six percent. For executives, the turnover rate is less than one percent.
Walmart: Since 2008, Walmart has fired or lost 120,000 American workers, while opening more than 500 new U.S. stores.
Many workers quit to find better-paying jobs. As a result, turnover at Walmart has been correspondingly high.
Costco: Doesn’t advertise or rely on a public relations staff.
Walmart: By contrast, Walmart spent $1.89 billion on self-glorifying ads in 2011.
Recently, Walmart has been forced to launch a massive PR campaign to counteract its notoriety for low pay, employment of illegal aliens, lack of health benefits and union-busting tactics.
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Some things can’t be quantified.
Goodwill, which is created by taking care of one’s employees–paying them a living wage and providing them with medical care–is one of them.
Similarly, ill will–created by paying the lowest possible wages and forcing employees to essentially become welfare clients–is another.
And some things that can be quantified don’t necessarily make for Nirvana.
In 2012, the Forbes 400 stated that the six wealthiest heirs to the Walmart empire were collectively worth $115 billion.
Yet this has not protected the Walton family from bad publicity–such as from striking workers and news media hungry for scandal.
Nor has it shielded the Waltons from ridicule–comedians like Jay Leno routinely joke about the hordes if illegal aliens Walmart “accidentally” hires.
Americans face a stark choice between two types of corporate employer–one that protects its employees, and another that essentially preys on them.
Which direction the nation chooses to go in will largely determine its course for long-term prosperity or short-term ruin.