Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 22, 2012

A second opinion on job creators and corporate profits

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Mr. Shott has made the egregious claim that people on the left do not understand how businesses work. Frankly, Mr. Shott, we understand, but we certainly see things from a different perspective. In your mind businesses are the job creators. They are the little engines that make America “go.” There is some truth to that. Business owners, however, are not always the angels you make them out to be.

Businesses exist to produce profits for the owners and shareholders. They do this by providing a service or product to their consumer base, and maximize profits by keeping business expenses as low as possible. This means that business owners have a vested interest in paying employees as little compensation as possible, and denying as many work-related benefits to their employees as possible. When something comes along to cut into a business owner’s profit margin, they often take that out on both the consumer and their employees.

Years ago I worked for a certain big box retailer that was generating profits to the tune of $10 billion per year. That’s profits, not revenue. They responded to these profit projections by phasing out many full-time jobs in lieu of hiring part timers, capping wage rates for workers, denying bonus pay, and providing shoddy health care that was unaffordable on my abysmally low income. While the CEO and other big shots made hundreds of millions of dollars, those of us keeping the store running were left barely breaking $15,000 per year. Many of my co-workers were on food stamps, others on WIC.

But wait, you say, did I not agree to work for these wages? Most certainly. As a result of the sheer desperation that fueled my search for a job I accepted what I could get. As years rolled by many of us voiced our displeasure with the low wages, poor insurance options, hour cuts, and so on. One day when I was particularly annoyed, I wrote “union meeting” on a calendar in one of the back rooms. It was promptly torn down. The replacement calendars were torn down as well, and eventually they stopped going up. I guess any organization that helps workers organize to work toward better “agreements” (read: a bigger piece of the pie) are frowned upon by “job creators” that are only interested in preserving their profits.

For several years I applied for other jobs I never got, all the while driving to work with my gas light on, searching vending machines for enough change to buy lunch, and marveling at how my paycheck seemed to disappear before I had a chance to buy groceries. I stayed sick for long periods of time because I couldn’t afford doctors or proper medications.

So now that the federal government has stepped in and implemented a program (Obamacare) meant to fill some of the gaps left by employers that obviously care more about profits than people, the “right” complains. How dare the U.S. government tell employers to help take care of the people that keep their businesses running! The reality is that these businesses should have been providing adequate health care to their employees from the beginning, as well as a living wage and other necessary benefits.

While Mr. Shott may not understand this, every worker in America, regardless of their job, deserves a decent quality of life. When the federal government steps in and says they’re going to work toward that by restructuring health care, understand that it would not have been necessary had business owners put the good of their employee base before the good of their personal bank accounts. So, sorry, but most people on the left have little sympathy with business chains that “have to raise prices” due to Obamacare, especially since we know that they’re just raising prices to keep their wallets fat at our expense.

Furthermore, Mr. Shott complains of proposed boycotts against companies based on political positions taken by those companies. I well remember rumors in the 1990s that Pepsi “supported gay rights,” and people passing chain letters around via e-mail about the evils of drinking Pepsi. I also remember a few people calling for boycotts of said beverage. I seem to remember these calls for action resurfacing just a few years ago. How funny to see the shoe on the other foot, for a change. Of course, boycotting for political reasons is apparently only wrong when people on the left do it. I certainly don’t think it’s “looney” to not give money to a company that will in turn use that money to support causes that I am fundamentally against, especially in a country where spending is considered political speech.

John M. McCormick

Athens, WV