It’s Time to Talk About Wage Theft

Interview

Over at Popular Information they juxtapose two crimes that happened last year: the stealing of retail goods by one person valued between $200-$950 and the other crime by one corporation was the stealing of people’s money valued at $4,500,000. One got a lot of news coverage while the other did not. Walgreens kept their worker’s money by committing wage theft, a crime an employer can commit by not paying overtime, having workers work “off the clock”, misclassifying employee pay scales, or through other means.

We should be more concerned with the stealing of wages than the petty from of stealing consumer goods. In the USA alone wage theft is a 15 billion dollar problem (yes you read that right), and according to the FBI it’s more than the value of all stolen goods in property crimes.

A good way to not be a victim of wage theft is simply to talk to your coworkers about how much you earn for the work you do.

Just a few months earlier, in November 2020, Walgreens paid a $4.5 million settlement to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging that it stole wages from thousands of its employees in California between 2010 and 2017. The lawsuit alleged that Walgreens “rounded down employees’ hours on their timecards, required employees to pass through security checks before and after their shift without compensating them for time worked, and failed to pay premium wages to employees who were denied legally required meal breaks.”

Walgreens’ settlement includes attorney’s fees and other penalties, but $2,830,000 went to Walgreens employees to compensate them for the wages that the company had stolen. And, because it is a settlement, that amount represents a small fraction of the total liability. According to the order approving the settlement, it represents “approximately 22% of the potential damages.”

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They mapped the thousand places in America where you’re breathing poison

industry

The Trump administration in the USA cut funding for their Environmental Protection Agency which led to an increase in pollution that harms people and nature. The pollution problem isn’t all thanks to Trump though, it comes from years of negligence around policies and procedures to protect communities from dangerous industrial waste. For example, in the early 2000s the Bush administration stopped a few NASA efforts to observe greenhouse gas emissions in the nation.

Despite government inaction, ProPublica decided to map out the most poisoned places in the States. Why is this on a good news site? If we don’t look at where the emission are coming, and what the combined impact is of those emissions then we won’t be able to adequately fight climate change. Knowledge is power.

At the map’s intimate scale, it’s possible to see up close how a massive chemical plant near a high school in Port Neches, Texas, laces the air with benzene, an aromatic gas that can cause leukemia. Or how a manufacturing facility in New Castle, Delaware, for years blanketed a day care playground with ethylene oxide, a highly toxic chemical that can lead to lymphoma and breast cancer. Our analysis found that ethylene oxide is the biggest contributor to excess industrial cancer risk from air pollutants nationwide. Corporations across the United States, but especially in Texas and Louisiana, manufacture the colorless, odorless gas, which lingers in the air for months and is highly mutagenic, meaning it can alter DNA.

In all, ProPublica identified more than a thousand hot spots of cancer-causing air. They are not equally distributed across the country. A quarter of the 20 hot spots with the highest levels of excess risk are in Texas, and almost all of them are in Southern states known for having weaker environmental regulations. Census tracts where the majority of residents are people of color experience about 40% more cancer-causing industrial air pollution on average than tracts where the residents are mostly white. In predominantly Black census tracts, the estimated cancer risk from toxic air pollution is more than double that of majority-white tracts.

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Thanks to Tom Scott for the title!

High CEO Pay Reduces Customer Satisfaction

The more a CEO is paid the worst customers are treated. Everyone knows inequality is bad for our society, but now shareholders might start caring because inequality within companies produces negative results. Customers are less satisfied with companies with high CEO compensations, and internally the companies suffer from inefficiency and lower morale.

This article adopts a marketing perspective to examine how wage inequality between top managers and their employees may have customer-related consequences (i.e., customer-directed effort, customer-directed opportunism, and customer-oriented culture) that affect customer satisfaction and firm performance. Surprisingly, marketing scholars and practitioners have largely neglected this pressing societal issue. The authors collect a cross-industry, multisource data set, including responses by top-level managers and objective data on wage inequality and firm performance from 106 business-to-business-focused firms (Study 1). In addition, they analyze multisource longitudinal panel data covering 521 firm-year observations for business-to-consumer-focused firms (Study 2). The results consistently reveal that wage inequality harms customer satisfaction. This relationship is mediated by customer-directed opportunism and customer-oriented culture but not customer-directed effort. Moreover, while wage inequality has a positive direct effect on short-term firm profitability, this effect is dampened by the negative indirect effect through customer-related consequences and customer satisfaction. Importantly, the positive direct effect of wage inequality on short-term profitability vanishes in the long run, whereas the adverse effect through customer satisfaction persists, leading to a nonsignificant total effect on long-term profitability. These findings may guide researchers, managers, shareholders, and policy makers in addressing the challenge of rising wage inequality.

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Pandora Papers Resonate in Canada

The Pandora Papers were released just last week and they are already having in impact in Canada. The non-profit Canadians for Tax Fairness is pushing the recently elected politicians to get on closing loopholes and exploits that only the rich get to use. All parties support tax reform to address the growing wealth divide in the country, and with the Pandora leak the need for tax reform is clear. Two Canadian celebrity athletes were exposed in the financial papers leak, which has hurt their reputations.

Support for tax fairness in Canada appears overwhelming. Eighty-nine per cent of Canadians want to see a wealth tax of one per cent paid by the richest Canadians as part of the country’s pandemic recovery, according to a recent Abacus Data pollbased on the NDP’s 2021 platform, and 92 per cent support closing tax loopholes and making it harder for corporations to strategically book profits in tax havens.

“There seems to be universal acknowledgment across the parties that economic inequality is a problem, and it’s a problem that requires government action,” said Cochrane.

In a blog post for C4TF, Cochrane outlined policies the major parties could work together on, based on similarities between party platforms, and identified an excess profits tax as one possibility.

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Opening A Pandora’s Box of Elite Financial Trickery

money

Yesterday the Pandora Papers were released to the public by a team of investigative journalists. It exposed how 35 world leaders and 300 other public officials used complex financial arrangements to not pay taxes and avoid potential corruption charges. While the rest of us get in trouble for not paying taxes, the elite continue to eschew taxes by using offshore accounts and a constant movement of money only the wealthy can afford.

It’s important to expose this behaviour of the rich to show they aren’t above the law nor can the mooch off the rest of us by using services our taxes provide while not paying their share. What’s more, it’s the elite who contribute the most to climate change yet they hog all the money to solve the issue.

Let’s keep looking into their financial management.

Much like the Panama Papers leak in 2016 or the Paradise Papers the following year, the secret files provide a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how certain global elites — or in other cases, high-profile criminals — take advantage of financial wizardry or opaque corporate structures to either shield assets, wriggle out of their tax obligations, or hide wealth entirely.  

“When we published the Panama Papers a few years ago, there was a lot of outcry around the world saying that this was a system that needed to end,” said Gerard Ryle, the ICIJ’s director. “But we’re now seeing the very people who could end the system … themselves benefiting from it.” 

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