August 7th, 2012
Employers are Whiners. Tales of Hypocrisy and Hoarding
Employers love to brand workers “whiners” when they dare complain about working conditions. Our CEO-worshipping media then say that societal ruination is around the corner as we descend into a “nanny state,” as if caring for one another is for sissies. The misdirected reasoning suggests that employers and employees enjoy an equal level of power. The stiffening of resolve against workers leads one to the following logic: employees are adults and need no help, no organized representation, no union, no contracts, no protections. And workers themselves agree way too often as compliant supplicants. All rights to fairness abandoned.
Employees rarely complain, and hardly ever, whine, especially bullied workers. It is the employers who cry foul as they enjoy all the benefits of power and wealth. Look at recent evidence.
1. Caterpillar. The company earned a 2011 profit of $4.9 billion and $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2012. CEO Olberhelman got a raise from $10.5 million to $16.9 million in 2011. It routinely demands concessions from workers as if the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Workers pay more for healthcare up to $1,900 more per year per worker. Newer workers start on a lower-tier pay scale and will never reach the level of older workers who will retire.
Limitless revenue for the top; austerity for the bottom. Joliet, IL plant management wants a wage freeze for top-tier salaries (averaging $55,000 per year). The corporation contends that salaries need to match the “local market” more. In other words, if Caterpillar is the highest paying employer in town, by comparison, all others will be lower. However, this is a devious argument. Whiny plant manager Carlos Revilla told the NY Times: “A competitive and fair wage package is a must. Paying wages well above market levels makes Joliet uncompetitive.” Balderdash.
While paying current wages at that plant, the company averaged $39,000 in profit per employee! That’s plenty competitive.
Cat workers have mortgages based on that income. To force them to be more equivalent to WalMart non-union, non-benefit, minimum-wage positions is ludicrous. But that is exactly what Caterpillar does.
The company has a history of breaking unions. In 2011, Caterpillar demanded a 55% wage cut from workers in its London Ontario Canada plant, then locked them out, and eventually closed the plant. In the mid-90′s 9,000 UAW union workers at 8 factories struck for 17 months, then conceded defeat and accepted cuts.
Workers in Joliet, members of the Machinists union (IAM), who manufacture hydraulic parts struck on May 1. Other unions are adding to their strike fund. The company hires non-union workers. Replacement workers earn $13/hour.
Said striker Rose Bain, who earns only $15/hour after working there two years, “We’re the people who busted our butts to help them make record profits. We shouldn’t be treated like this.”
2. Perspective of corporate attorneys regarding employment law and its effects on their employer clients. We found a handout that accompanied a seminar on “Hot Topics on D&O and Employment Practices Liability” presented by corporate attorneys on May 10, 2012 at the University of Chicago. Primarily we were thankful that Workplace Bullying was the second “hot topic” of the seminar. They seemed to understand in-depth our Healthy Workplace Bill. It’s a peek into their mindset. Here’s what they said.
The tone was bleak. “Over recent years, the failing economy has resulted in lost jobs because employers can no longer afford to carry dead weight.” Two errors leap from the page/screen. Employees are dead weight, never contributors to the bottom line. Employment in prior years was only done by the good graces of the benevolent corporations to whom we should all be grateful. Point two is that employers didn’t decide to cut U.S. jobs (and find cheaper labor overseas), it happened passively because the economy failed. Total denial of responsibility about deliberate ruthless economic decisions.
The report continued under a section labelled: “The Litigation Swell”
Gripped by economic anxiety, employers continue to trim their ranks and reduce wages, and employees are capitalizing on opportunities to file suit … The majority [my emphasis] of these suits involved wage and hour claims premised on misclassification and overtime and evidenced a reduction in claims involving meals and breaks.
Think about it, workers have to sue employers to get paid what they were promised. There is much thievery going on. Timecards and hourly records are mysteriously altered. Eligibility for overtime is denied by employers as they claim lead workers are exempt and salaried rather than hourly. They are nickel-and-diming workers, defying them to prove they, the employers, are liars. So, expensive lawsuits must be launched by employee plaintiffs who don’t have discretionary income like the CEO. Neither do workers have litigation insurance as do employers — it’s called employment practices liability insurance (EPLI).
Finally, these corporate attorneys told their audience that according to their survey of 400 in-house counsel and corporate law departments, claims that brought the most monetary exposure involved “race, age and wage and hour.” Litigation was the preferred method for resolving disputes by internal lawyers because “it is effective.” Darn right about that.
A review of discrimination lawsuit outcomes in 2009 found that plaintiffs won in only 15% of cases, reflecting a declining success trend over two decades of EEOC records. Of course, employers like litigation involving alleged discrimination. Proving the root cause is discrimination is nearly impossible.
Are employers as broke at their advocates plead? No. They’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid.
Bloomberg reporter Richard Rubin cited a March 2012 study of 70 corporations that together keep $187 billion out of the reach of the IRS. General Electric ($102 billion) and Pfizer ($63 billion) lead the list that includes Apple, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Oracle and Google.
Hoarding by banks, however, pales the corporate stockpiling, denying the U.S. economy its lifeblood. The Tax Justice Network research found $21 Trillion of U.S. money hidden offshore in tax havens by major banks. This is a conservative estimate. The total may be $32 trillion. Ever wonder why there’s no money to redo your upside-down mortgage?
Employers said, through their highly compensated legal advocates speaking in Chicago that Thursday in May, they also abhor regulations. They complained heavily about the NLRB mandate to hang a poster reminding employees of their rights granted by the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. We wrote about this in more detail in a recent blog.
Poor little rich babies. Waaah.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2012 at 3:52 pm and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.