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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 10/22/13

Instead of Corporations, Why Not Invest in People?

By       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   3 comments
Message Robert Montgomerie

Recently in Washington, DC, an interesting battle went on
between its City Council and "big-box" retailer Walmart over a living-wage ordinance that would demand that the company, long known for paying
poverty wages to its employees, pay a minimum of $11.75 an hour to its

Walmart mounted an aggressive campaign to defeat the
legislation. On the table in DC is what is called "The Large Retailer
Accountability Act" sponsored by City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson
and Vincent Orange. The bill would require that large retailer operating
a store at 75,000 square feet, and whose corporate parent has sales of
$1 billion, pay a living wage plus benefits to its employees. That
living wage would also be indexed to the local consumer-price index each

In a "stunning" move Walmart argued that forcing them and
other large retailers to pay a high wage would stunt economic growth -- a
rather interesting statement considering Walmart's well-known record of
moving into small towns and obliterating small businesses by operating
at a lower profit ratio than small companies can compete with. They also
brought up another interesting point that companies such as Safeway --
who has a unionized workforce -- aren't mentioned in the legislation. In
other words Walmart feels it has no responsibility to a community or the
people it employs within it to do anything other than to extract as
much money from it as possible.

In Jacksonville, Florida, there
are many big-box retailers who employ thousands of people in the area in
low-paying jobs, often on a part-time basis, and certainly without
health benefits. On the Westside around the 32254 and 32205 zip-code
areas the percentage of people now living at the poverty rate is at
29% (according to census figures) while companies such as Lowes, Walmart,
Home Depot, and two major grocery-store chains operate in the area.
Many of these people are struggling to etch out a living while these
large corporations pull huge profits out of our community.

As the
city struggles to pay its bills, due mostly to a lack of revenue, the
Mayor and the City Council want to bring in more corporations, offering
them money to come in and hopefully employ a few local people in the
process. For example, the city will be kicking in $360,000 to Deutsche
Bank with the state paying the remainder of $1.8 million in QTI money.
In return Deutsche Bank has said it will rent additional office space in
Butler Plaza III on Belfort Rd. This should be very good news for the
370 people laid off by Homeward Residential in February and those who
will be laid off with Everbank as they will probably be competing for
the 300 jobs coming out of the deal, not to mention the commercial-property manager, who will do very well renting out the additional office

But what about people all over the city who paid the
taxes that their local and state government is gifting Deutsche Bank?
What are they getting in return? On the Westside, Downtown, and the
Northside, people notice the generous amount of attention that goes to
the Southside heavily infested with corporations. How do small-business
owners benefit in these areas filled with people who cannot afford their
goods and services west of the river?

It's simple. They don't
get much in return. While corporations over in the Southside pay
reasonably well there are as many big-box retailers even there who
don't. Over in the areas west of the river a lot of lip service is paid,
with as many promises, as the schools get worse, libraries are
threatened with closing, as well as other essential services threatened
to be cut off. A trip down any thoroughfare past the charming trappings
of Riverside/Avondale and part of Springfield yields the realities of
areas falling into neglect while revenues are being directed elsewhere
in the city.

Recently the Jacksonville Business Journal added to
their ongoing banter and corporate cheerleading an article denouncing
the idea of a $15 an hour minimum wage and how it would run companies
out of town. They wouldn't hire new people as the labor costs would make
it prohibitive. They included this article for a reason as there is
labor unrest around the country. People are beginning to feel the brunt
of wage stagnation. Companies such as McDonald's have employees fighting
right now for higher wages as they make billions a year yet only pay
their employees the minimum they can get away with paying them.

Jacksonville there needs to be a serious discussion about income
inequality. After years of state "right-to-work laws", citizens in the
city are now starting to see the problems of waiting for a trickle down
from their corporate masters. They know it isn't coming but their only
alternative to continued exploitation is homelessness.

But there
is something that can be done and the leaders of our city can for once
take the lead in improving the lives of many people hovering at the
poverty rate. The city can for once do the right thing in addressing the
problem of severe income equality in Jacksonville by passing a local
living-wage ordinance similar to the one DC is fighting for.

will a living-wage ordinance accomplish? For one it will create a wider
pool of taxpayers who will pay more consumption taxes. More people
paying taxes levels out the tax burden among everyone and will enable us to
do what 36 other cities around the country right now can't do: pay for
essential services.

More people in the area who make more money
also stimulates more consumer spending. In areas where large
corporations aren't as interested in moving (such as any place not around
Baymeadows and Deerwood areas) small businesses will see more local
customers who can afford their goods and services as they will have more
disposable income. Walmart, though they will "cry poor" in the
beginning, will also see more consumer sales in the area as other big-box
retailers will.

As many companies will see more sales due to
more money circulating in the area they will need to hire to meet the
demand. Also there will be more self-sufficiency as people will be able
to save or move into a more-expensive apartment. As the implementation
of a living wage will bring more people off of food-stamp and welfare
rolls as the raise of the standard of living of more people will
disqualify them from participation in those programs.

For decades
we have tried repeatedly in this area to bring decent "corporate
citizens" here yet our situation never really improves. For decades we
tried the same old "public-private partnerships" that have done nothing
but line the pockets of small-time crony capitalists in the area, and
what kind of value has the city and it's people gotten in return? Well
that rather expensive courthouse comes to mind as a shining example of
"public-private partnerships", poor priorities, and many more could be
named almost ad infinitum. So why not for a change try a new priority;
people over profits!
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Robert Montgomerie Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in I am originally from the northeast I won't say where. I moved to the south and I don't know why.
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