Posts Tagged ‘retail’

A new report from the UCLA Labor Center [ht: ja], “I am a #YOUNGWORKER,” challenges the prevailing cliché of “young people as self-indulgent millennials who live with their parents, idly wait for the perfect job, and collect paychecks mostly for shopping and weekend leisure.”

In reality, many employers rely on youth to supply “cheap, surplus, temporary and easy-to-discipline labor” that can be recruited or disposed of according to the whims of the business cycle. Adults often portray these early jobs as brief interludes or rites of passage to justify the precarious conditions of “youth” forms of work.

The study focuses on workers between the ages of 18 and 29 in retail and food service, the two largest employers of young people in Los Angeles. Together, they employ a quarter-million young workers—almost half (42.6%) their workforce.

work status

The authors of the report discovered that young workers are often employed in part-time jobs, they play an integral role in supporting their families, and one in ten live below the poverty line.

In addition, young workers struggle to balance work and school (“They need to work in order to afford school, and they need to attend school so they can get ahead at work”) and owe increasing amounts of educational debt (more than $19 thousand on average).

On the job, most (90 percent) do not have a set schedule, since they are forced to “depend on schedule assignments that are staggered weekly and build an intricate web of overlapping shifts that ensure that workers are constantly present on the store floor or stockrooms.” They are also vulnerable to various forms of wage threat (not getting paid for overtime or working off the clock), are often harassed by both bosses and customers, and do not receive the benefits (such as sick days, vacation, and health insurance) other workers have managed to secure.


As if that were not bad enough, the youth unemployment rate (11.2 percent) is more than twice the official rate (5 percent).

In other words, young workers today are often living on a “dead end street.”

dollar-tree-store-random-jpeg famdollar

What does it mean that Dollar Tree is buying rival discount store Family Dollar in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $8.5 billion?

It means, at a first cut, that Family Dollar stockholders will receive $59.60 in cash and the equivalent of $14.90 in shares of Dollar Tree for each share they own—a transaction valued at $74.50 per share, which is an approximately 23 percent premium to Family Dollar’s Friday closing price of $60.66—and that Dollar Tree will now have more than 13,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada—nearly three times as many as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (although Wal-Mart’s square footage is still greater).

More generally, it means there’s a lot of profit to be made in selling discount commodities to the low-income and falling-income American families whose numbers have grown over the course of the past three decades, and especially in the midst of the Second Great Depression.

As Sriya Shrestha explains in her recently published study of dollar stores,

US consumers experience a kind of “thirdworldization,” that marks them not as exceptional but rather increasingly on par with rest of world as they become yet another population of consumers marked by their lack of income. Hence, multinational corporations’ and discount retailers’ techniques aimed at incorporating what are known in marketing literature as the “bottom of the pyramid” (poorest populations in poorest countries) overlap with methods used at US dollar stores. For example, brand- name goods at the dollar store are often sold in packages substantially smaller than the standard sizes found at Target or CVS. This technique also surfaces in places like India where companies like Unilever and Proctor & Gamble sell single-serving sachets of laundry detergent, fairness cream, and shampoo for around 2 rupees. These methods rely upon a particular model of frugality aimed at those with extremely limited incomes that actually costs the consumer more in the long-run. This contrasts with other recently popularized methods of shopping, like purchasing in bulk from warehouse retailers and couponing that actually save money. These latter shopping styles require more money upfront, time, storage space, and membership fees ensuring its association with normative American middle-class, feminine “home-making” and smart budgeting rather than poverty.

Thus, the sense of loss of an American consumer identity and American dream emerges through the sense of a compromised American exceptionalism as people in the US find themselves unemployed, underemployed, facing compromised conditions of labor and consumption. Chinese Tide detergent and Indian Colgate toothpaste make their way to US dollar stores because major US and European multinationals are now targeting growth markets among the middle classes and poor in the former peripheries of the global economy as the centers have slowly begun to crumble.

Clearly, poor and working-class families are being forced to have the freedom to pinch their pennies, which turns out to be a profitable opportunity for the likes of dollar stores that feed at the bottom of American capitalism.

Affluenza defense

Posted: 16 December 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,


Apparently, a Texas teenager [ht: ck] who killed four people while driving drunk was sentenced this week to ten years probation in lieu of jail time, after the defense argued he was a product of “affluenza”—

a condition in which growing up wealthy prevents children from understanding the links between their behavior and the consequences because they are rarely held accountable for their actions.

What’s next? Are we going to not jail bankers who took risky decisions, brought the world economy to its knees, and created the Second Great Depression because, as a result of their wealth, they didn’t understand the links between their behavior and its consequences? Or CEOs who closed plants in the United States and shipped the jobs overseas, or who replaced workers with machines and computers, thereby sending hard-working people to the unemployment lines—are they also to be excused from the responsibility of paying for their crimes because of their wealthy condition? Or, finally, are we going to give a “get out of jail” card to large retailers who do everything in their power—inside and outside the law—to make sure their workers never benefit from union representation?

Then again, I guess we have.


Yesterday, thousands of fast-food and retail workers went on strike across the United States in a signal of the growing demand for action on income equality.

But they’re not the only workers who are being paid povery-level wages. According to a new report released by the Committee for Better Banks [pdf], almost a third of the country’s half-million bank tellers rely on some form of public assistance to get by. At the same time,

The top fifty financial CEOs’ compensation collectively rose by 26% in 2010 and by 20.4% in 2011. According to a report by SNL Financial, the median CEO pay for the securities industry in general jumped overall 22 percent in 2012.

  • Although Bank of America’s stock fell 58% in 2011, Brian Moynihan, the bank’s CEO, earned $8.1 million for the year. In 2012, his pay package rose to $12 million.73
  • While in 2011 Goldman Sach’s stock plunged 45.6 percent, CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s compensation rose to $16.2 million.74 In 2012, he was awarded $21 million, including $13 million in restricted stock.
  • Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase’s compensation increased in 2011 to $23 million as the bank’s stock fell 20%. Dimon’s salary was only reduced after admitting wrongdoing when in May of 2012 JPMorgan’s stock dropped more than 10 percent in two days.
  • Despite the fact that Citigroup was in the midst of letting go of thousands of workers, it let Vikram Pandit leave his post as CEO with a hefty $6.7 million bonus in 2012.


Low-wage fast-food and retail workers who have staged walkouts this year in eight American cities are calling for a national day of strikes on 29 August.

The workers — who are backed by local community groups and national unions and have held one-day walkouts in cities such as New York, St. Louis and Detroit — say they have received pledges of support from workers in dozens of cities across the country.

The workers are calling for a wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union. Organizers of the walkout say cashiers, cooks and crew members at fast-food restaurants are paid a median wage of $8.94 an hour. . .

The planned August walkout — timed for the immediate aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the lead-up to Labor Day — is expected to touch 35 or more cities and involve thousands of workers, organizers said.