Ah, so the rich do have money

TW: classism

A pre-Black Friday piece in the Nation by Lee Fang noted that the slick ads pushing back against pushes for unionization and wage increases for retail and fast food workers were coming out of one Worker Center Watch. Fang explained,

TheNation.com has discovered that Worker Center Watch was registered by the former head lobbyist for Walmart. Parquet Public Affairs, a Florida-based government relations and crisis management firm for retailers and fast food companies, registered the Worker Center Watch website.

The firm is led by Joseph Kefauver, formerly the president of public affairs for Walmart and government relations director for Darden Restaurants. Throughout the year, Parquet executives have toured the country, giving lectures to business groups on how to combat the rise of what has been called “alt-labor.” At a presentation in October for the National Retail Federation, a trade group for companies like Nordstrom and Nike, Kefauver’s presentation listed protections against wage theft, a good minimum wage and mandated paid time off as the type of legislative demands influenced by the worker center protesters.

This has prompted many to ask how companies that need currently stagnant wages to make their bottom line can afford to hire a public affairs firm which states on its website that it’s primary clients are “Fortune 500 corporations, national trade associations, non-profits and regional businesses.” You can practically hear the cash register, right?

Of course, that’s only half the story. Amid all the clamor about how both protests for workers’ rights are vaguely but clearly terrible and insistence from many executives that average workers are unskilled, an entire market for training upper division employees has developed. Perusing the (mostly US-based) conferences in the coming months listed by TrainingIndustry.com makes this clear, with cost for attending (and hence, being trained) running typically more than a thousand dollars.

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(Here’s May 2014, for example.)

Those being conferences for the “training industry,” it’s worth noting that they’re explicitly for management – those hundreds of dollars are being spent helping executives learn how to train already comparatively skilled workers. In other words, after being hired, people in these types of positions are trained in their basic duties to the cost of hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Conferences teaching managers how to manager aren’t really an aberration from similar conferences that give them the ability to write professionally, interpersonal communication, and even time management. So while insisting that paying workers minimum wage is practically charity based on how unskilled they are and spending millions to make that message heard, many members of the executive class are being hired while lacking these basic talents and then being trained in them (often on the companies’ dime!).

Quite literally the only thing US companies don’t appear to have the money for is paying much more than the minimum wage to workers below management.

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