Bill Knight - January 10
11:31 am
Wed January 9, 2013

The Dirty Low-Down Dozen

Most working people routinely tip servers at sit-down restaurants, but after considering a recent list of the dozen U.S. companies that pay employees the least, consumers may want to start tipping fast-food workers and clerks at familiar department stores, too.

Bill Knight
Bill Knight

The “dirty low-down dozen” are either large national restaurant chains that employ tens of thousands of cooks and cashiers, or large national retailers, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP).

Two-thirds of low-wage workers – those paid less than $10 an hour – are employed by large corporations with at least 100 employees, NELP reports. Besides low wages, many of these companies have histories of poor labor relations that include long hours, unsafe or unpleasant working conditions, and lousy or nonexistent benefits.

Further, despite the current federal minimum wage the workers are often paid – worth 30% less than it was in 1968 in terms of purchasing power, NELP shows – most of this dozen make record profits and have high executive pay.

The recession has affected every company, but on this list, only two reported losses last year. Nevertheless, most use the economic downturn to justify cutting benefits, laying off staff, increasing hours, and maintaining low pay levels.

Bear with me on numbers; here are details about the “dirty low-down dozen”:

1. Walmart (1.4 million workers) has CEO compensation of $18 million Its 3,800 U.S. stores reported revenues of $446 billion and net income of $15 billion.

2. Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell – 880,330 workers) has CEO compensation of $20 million. Its 16,000 locations reported a net income of $1.3 billion

3. McDonald’s (859,978 workers) has CEO compensation of $4 million. Its 14,000 locations reported a net income of $5.5 billion.

4. Target (365,000 workers) has CEO compensation of $19 million. Its 1,700 stores reported a net income of $2.9 billion.

5. Sears (264,000 workers) has CEO compensation of $9 million. Its 3,500 stores reported a net loss of $3 billion on revenues of $41 billion.

6. Burger King (191,815 workers) has CEO compensation of $4 million. Its 7,400 restaurants reported a net income of $107 million.

7. Starbucks (176,533 workers) has CEO compensation of $16 million. Its 12,000 locations reported revenues of $13.3 billion and net income of $1.3 billion.

8. DineEquity (Applebee’s, IHOP –173,000 workers) has CEO compensation of $5 million. Its 3,500 restaurants reported a net income of $75 million.

9. Macy’s (171,000 workers) has CEO compensation of $17 million. Its 842 stores reported a net income of $1 billion.

10. Wendy’s (168,672 workers) has CEO compensation of $16 million. Its 6,500 restaurants reported a net income of $12 million.

11. Darden Restaurants (LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Red Lobster –165,475 workers) has its highest executive compensation set at $8 million. Its 1,900 locations reported a net income of $475 million.

12. J.C. Penney (159,000 workers) has its highest executive compensation set at $53 million. Its 1,100 stores reported a net loss of $152 million on revenues of $17 billion.

Early last month, hundreds of New York City workers at Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s went on strike. At a coordinated rally – with fast-food workers, plus airport, car-wash and grocery workers who have won labor battles in recent months – demonstrators’ march went for blocks, supported by building trades workers.

Joshua Freeman, a history professor at City University of New York’s Queens College, said, “We’re seeing labor being absolutely central to American politics once again, seeing a zillion battles across the country in state capitols, in front of McDonalds, in warehouses, in the port of Los Angeles. Difficult times for working people have put these questions on the forefront. Labor’s on the defensive, but occasionally on the offensive also.”

Bill Knight is a freelance writer. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University. Knight’s newspaper columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com