In today’s America, post the all-mighty self-inflicted cancer we call the Great Recession, it seems the solution to the problem is really quite simple. Corporations like Politicians pretend to help the most in need, but in reality pander to the wealthy — donor class. The ones with the deep pockets and deep political contribution rules. But that’s not what we are here to talk about. Today I’d like to make you aware that an alarming number of medium to large sized companies have similar ideals to those of the über rich. Every one is out to make a buck, and in the business world, much like in politics there is an elite powerful group to please. People will go to great lengths necessary to achieve that this structure remains in power. Use your imagination, it’s happened.
No matter how young or old, regardless of class, political affiliation, or the myriad issues that divide us on a daily basis, Americans and people abroad felt the wide ranging ramifications of the horrific economic collapse a few years back, now widely known as the “Great Recession of the Millennium.” Wealthy and broke alike saw their 401k’s and pensions disappear faster than they could remember their passwords.
When the Great Recession hit (or GR for our purposes), I was a responsible young college graduate working in management at a $6 billion dollar company. I won’t name any names, except to say it was a cleaner, more expensive version of Walmart littered with red accents and silly dogs with rings around his eye .
Once I turned 21, in 2007, my store manager begged me to sign up for the 401k program available for management. He helped me pick some good stocks and before I knew it, I had doubled my savings. My money goes directly to my account and I gave it no thought for years.
December of 2009 rolls around and the opportunity of a lifetime rears it’s head, so full of life and opportunity. My closest friend from my childhood days, at the time living in downtown San Francisco, needed a roommate. He had two jobs lined up and I had never been more excited in my life. I sold all my valuable assets, car, collectables, you name it. Then it hit me! My 401k had been doing great a year ago. So I check it and find it at under $1000. Yes, $1,000 after 2 years of myself and my company matching 15% of every paycheck for 2 years. Now is it, arguably, my fault for not recognizing the crisis we were in? Yes. Not a year earlier I checked on it and it was over $7,000 and showing no signs of slowing down. But I’m a 22 year old kid, at the time, with aspirations in life well past retail. So I basically said ‘screw you to my measly 401k and enjoyed the fruits of my other investments.
Later that week, at the behest of the nearly 2 dozen management level workers at the company with the giant red bullseye whom shall not be named, demanded answers. Our store manager, a bit out of his league, to put it nicely, put on his best “nest excrement eating grin” he could muster on his face as he neatly stacked papers in front of us. He proceeds to pass around a paper and the first thing to smack me and a good fraction of the 22 other mangers in the room was the word ‘Attrition’.
Once I and others consoled ourselves with everything from ancient Chinese breathing exercise to become Yin with Yan — to heated discussions among the managers while I proceeded to read the rest of the headline “[Redacted] to Achieve Excellence and Survive Despite the Economic Downturn through Attrition.” In other words, management was looking and hoping for us to fail so they had a legal reason to let us go. This too smart to fail company gave it’s management employees anywhere from 2-3 times more responsibility with zero increase in pay.
For instance, before my beloved place of employment felt the strain of a poor economy feuled by two unpopular wars, things were great. Good pay, good friends, great girl I came oh-so-close to put a ring on that finger. The recession through attrition, gave me managerial responsibilities that had to do with good and consumable fresh products, vendor relations, ordering products, which were among the others. After the older management (who were paid much more mind you) were let go after 20 years for not performing well under this new environment we found ourselves fighting to stay. The new rigged system created the catalyst for corporate darwinism.
During my time as a Senior Executive at Target, trusted with many propriety ideas, you may or may not be surprised to know that Target Coloration priorities are, in order:
1. Stock Holders
2. Vendors (In order to keep prices low)
3. The “Guests”(G-d forbid one sues)
4. And last and certainly not least The Team Leader.
Going back to the whole idea of Achieving Excellence through Attrition just sounds devious on its own merit. Going into 2009 we had 20 Team Leaders. By our meeting in 2010, we had 10. Each with twice or three times the work load, each with a disdain for a corporation they used to enjoy working for and each ready to jump ship the first opportunity they got.
Target fired mothers whose only income was the $7.25 an hour. Their other strategy to save money was to find excuses to eliminate the longest standing members of the Target Marlin Team. I bet saving that few extra bucks they saved bi-weekly made a huge difference. This is the new trend. This is how they improve portfolios and please the shareholders. They make it seem like they are on the up and up by “trimming the fat.” Meanwhile, these older women have no income and live with their children. They were once fueling the local economy, now they can’t even put food on the table.
I was one of the “Lucky 10” who was chosen to stay on as part of “Achieving Excellence.” I only had about 3.5 more times the responsibility and stress with no raise. Target really is a disgusting company known to use sweat shop labor to produce their product and they treat the employees like the scum of the earth. Instead of ruining people’s lives, many lively hoods could have been saved if the new CEO of Target took a few bucks of his nearly $14 million per year salary and took care or some or his “struggling team members.” However, philanthropy like that usually requires a heart. The leadership should have looked at innovative ways to improve the company’s numbers to keep it’s workforce. Perhaps a strong sales program that would support annual income costs of each employee. It’s hard to believe with all of the technologies we have at our disposal that companies cannot come up with innovative ways to increase revenue.
A great way Target could Achieve Excellence in this upcoming year would be to buy better quality products locally made, treat your employees above your vendors, and at the least change the corporate leadership to true leaders who have a proven track record of creating revenue without consolidating and ill practices. This is the only way a company can survive and prevent local economies that these corporations fuel from collapsing.
Written by Brenton Zimniuch