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Editorial: Protest may be a sign of a bigger shift

It’s time for Market Basket shareholders to bag it.

In the court of customer opinion, Arthur T. Demoulas and what he represents – low prices and concern for employees, who receive higher than average wages and benefits plus profit sharing – has won.

Boston-area business experts are warning that if the battle between the two branches of the Demoulas family isn’t settled soon, the supermarket chain will suffer a drastic drop in value, if it survives at all.

The Market Basket employees – line workers as well as managers picketing in front of the near-empty stores – and the customers who support them are demonstrating the power of acting together. The employees aren’t unionized, but they are united.

While the Market Basket employees picketed, some 1,200 fast-food workers from across the nation met at a convention center a few miles from McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Illinois. Most of them earn the minimum wage or a few dollars more, which means that a full-time worker with one dependent can’t afford to eat the fast food he or she serves and still make the rent.

Employees, whether they are among the 17 million-plus workers covered by a union contract or not, have been losing economic ground for a generation. From the end of World War II through 1979, 60 percent of the nation’s income gains went to the bottom 90 percent of households.

The trend, which coincided with a decline in manufacturing jobs and union membership, then reversed, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Between 1980 and 2007, 60 percent of the economic gains went to the top 1 percent of household, with the lion’s share of that going to the top one-half of 1 percent.

The minimum wage, which in New Hampshire is by default the $7.25 per hour federal wage, increased just 21 percent since 1990. During the same period, the cost of living increased by 67 percent. The nation’s progressive tax policy hasn’t been nearly progressive enough to stop the income gap from growing, let alone shrink it.

The income gap between the truly wealthy, among them the battling Arthur S. and Arthur T. Demoulas, and the vast majority of working Americans is at a level not seen since the 1920s. The wealth gap is even greater. The number of billionaires in the United States increased tenfold between 1987 and 2012, from 41 to 425, according to the website Statista.com. Meanwhile, three out of four working Americans live paycheck to paycheck, according to Bankrate.com, and some 60 percent of baby boomers lack the ability to maintain their lifestyle if they retire.

More than two decades ago, the economist Arthur Laffer came to the Monitor and drew his famous Laffer curve, which ostensibly proved that cutting taxes for the well-off would generate economic activity that would increase income for everyone further down the economic ladder. That’s not what happened. Wealth accumulated at the top didn’t trickle down. Supply-side economics didn’t supply jobs.

The Market Basket pickets in their white shirts, the fast-food workers gathered in Illinois, and successful campaigns to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts and other states make us wonder whether historians will look back on 2014 as the year America’s workforce said “enough is enough.”

The vast income gap and the pooling of income at the top is hurting, not helping, the economy. Henry Ford doubled the wages of his workers because he believed he would profit if more people could afford to buy cars. The same principle, it seems, applies to Happy Meals or a bag of groceries.

Legacy Comments25

Talk about apples and oranges, perhaps we can provide the editors with some flash cards to see they can identify Capitalism and Socialism. The Market Basket story is a story of the way the system should work. A company treats its employees like gold, gives them great benefits. Along come phony Capitalists, aka corporate raiders or in this case family raiders. The employees and loyal customers have sent a message to the phony Capitalists and now, a company is on the verge of crumbling. On the McDonald's side of the coin it is politics and an unskilled work force demanding wages that the market can not bear. Market Basket is a private company, the stakeholders call the shots, they are self funded. McDonald's appears in the retirement portfolio of millions of Americans; it is a publically traded company. People invest, expecting a return. In the food service business as in the grocery business, the margins are razor thin. People should not be fooled by net profit dollars. The market demand for McDonald's is extremely strong as it would be for a publically traded grocery store. Now, grocery store profits are even slimmer than fast food margins, between 1-3%. The armchair quarterback editors ignore all of these facts, fail to interject an ounce of business sense, only emotion, which clearly stands in the way of the real story. There is no doubt that many on Wall Street are taking advantage of this economic downturn, however, the Monitor should ask several other questions. The Obama administrations EPA and other anti-business executive orders coupled with Obama's ideological hatred for Capitalism has done our economy no favors....The other side of the coin is the upward mobility factor that Americans have always strived for. The American work ethic, the American Dream and hard work have faded the last few years and honestly, this class envy rhetoric and anger towards the rich is more about the last 6 years that we have all suffered through. People are at the end of their rope, business is over regulated and yes, some companies are taking advantage of a down economy. But it is not as simple as the nuts and bolts, first grade economic theories. My suggestion is that the editors attend some economic classes at one of our fine state schools.

I find many of the comments here rather ironic and so targeted that they miss the point they are actually making. The exception is PBR and they never make sense anyway. Rabbit makes a very valid claim as to the cost of the American worker being high, it's true, The better question is why? The answer to that $20,000 dollar question is healthcare. The average company paid coverage is just shy of $16500. per employee. Now take this one step further, if we can't afford to pay a living US wage, how long before we becomes a country of strictly haves and have not's? Time to go back to your basic economics text books. A democratic form of government requires 2 things, 1 - an educated populace and 2 - a middle class. Look around there are a growing number of have not's and a growing number of haves. It's the middle that is shrinking violently. Now once again look at all countries with a vast wealthy class and then nothing but people trying to scratch out an existence. Those are what we call the third world. That was also the under pining's of the French and Russian revolutions. We need to put American business back doing what it did best. Making something, acknowledging the importance of the worker and most of all, making business the focus of business, now the focus is making money for shareholders. If we keep on this heading our financial house of cards will implode and 1932 and 2008 look like a market correction. No need to blame democrats or republicans, this is the behind the scenes money people. Come on, in 1973 I took out an extended 24 month car loan, now an extended car loan is 72 months. This will have to stop at one point.

Not sure where you're getting that $16.5K number from, GC. Forbes, SHRM and money.cnn.com all report employer contributions to average between $10K & $10.5K per employee in 2013. As far as commenters deviating from the point of the editorial, well...that's goes with the territory of Discussion. It happens in most every topic on this forum that gains a fair amount of posts. One commenter takes issue with a point made by another, etc. Even you do it, GC (ya just did it here...lol). But thanks for lording over us, your honor.

I have to disagree about deviating from the point. On the $16K figure, that number was based on what we all considered good insurance, not the mega$$ deductibles or subsidized ACA plans. But we are splitting hairs. The American worker is more expensive because the cost of living in the US is high. The question is harped on about how much profit is too much. Naturally more is better than less, but at what cost. Business can save money by outsourcing jobs to increase their profits. The downside is with the loss of jobs and the void has to be filled or pretty soon you will have real problems. If we outsource and/or automate jobs, how will anyone be able to purchase anything? That is what is at play with MB, a business shift away from a plan that was working to one where shareholder profits are maximized at the expense of the workers and customers. All for the benefit of shareholders who only take without producing anything. ..... How this is lording over anyone??

GC, If you're $16.5K figure (not $16K...c'mon) is for Cadillac policies, then you should have qualified it as such. As presented, it's NOT an "average". Otherwise, the attitude of your assessment of all previous commenters struck me as a tad arrogant, thus the 'lording over'. And that's not like you. Must've had a bad day. Shake it off, kid.

*your...not you're (had me a tillie moment...heh-heh-heh)

America works best when we have a good economy. It also works best when we actually create new business and lift folks out of poverty. Instead we are doing the opposite. We make nothing in the US. It is all well and good to state buy American, but the cost to make anything in the US is sky high. The per employer cost now is off the charts, so that cost is passed down to the product. The same will happen if minimum wage is raised too high, your McDees burger will cost more. The other job killer is the EPA. There are like 186 new mandates coming down that will in fact impact small business. My daughter is struggling to get her made in America business going. She is worried about expanding it because of what owning a business requires the employer to cover now. If you own a business and the cost of running that business is too high, then your product will in fact need to be high priced to cover your expenses. look at Main Street, small inventories and high prices to make a profit. Go in any store downtown and see how many shoppers are in there. The left has made it very clear that profit margins should be limited, employers should provide tons of benefits and now laws about what women should be paid is in the mix. Basically we have an environment that is doing everything in its power to discourage new business. You cannot state on one hand that we need to create jobs in America, then keep enacting mandates that discourage folks from opening new businesses. The corps will survive, they will go overseas, but small business will take the hit. People buy what they can afford, period.

Wabbit, According to a recent poll at Boston Consulting Group, many US corporations currently based in China are considering the move back home. Reason being, labor costs are on the rise in China; a condition not expected to abate anytime in the near future. That, coupled with US labor now at bargain rates, has provided the lure back to America for many wayward corporations. Not saying it will happen tomorrow, and even if/when it does, things will never be the same. That is, the man with big red Texaco star won't be wiping the windshield on your Olds 88, but the cycle appears headed full-circle. However, I don't see how anyone can call it a Left or Right issue, exclusively. Both parties own this one.

I also read that Mexico, The Netherlands and India are luring US companies. You are correct about China. I disagree with you that US Labor is at bargain rates. When you figure in EPA mandates coming down soon, cost of health will rise also and we are also seeing a push for higher minimum wage hikes. The environment for business in the US is still not good in my opinion.

The simplest way to take health care costs out of the business profits equation: Single Payer Health Care. Why not?

Laurie, Many a Southern Belle went from "have" to "have not" status as a result of the Civil War. Judging from your shallow and insipid posts on this forum, it would appear you are currently amongst the "haves". But oh, how I look forward to seeing you descend the grand staircase in your new "Carol Burnett as Scarlett O'Hara" dress made from window drapes.

Sorry CM, no seismic shift. There will always be the haves and the have nots. Either figure a way to be a have or accept your fate as a have not.

Sorry, Laurie, the Progressive Era and later the New Deal taught us that America works best when the majority of the population consists of HAVE-SOMES. Nations that have only haves and have-nots always end up suffering repression, revolution or both. Is that what you want?

Another 12 paragraph economic treatise from the so-called journalists at the CM RAG that is void of reality or reason. The CM RAG tells the citizens that there is only 1 sized pie and that each persons slice is getting smaller -except for the rich. In Fact - the pie is always growing and the failed democrat policies of flooding the bond market each month with Billions of NObama Monopoly Money has had a different effect than they intended - the rich got richer. Go wonder. If the democrats really wanted to help the middle class they should have done what the Republicans proposed and give us all a tax holiday and return the money directly to our pockets to spend as we wish. BUT NO ! democrats believe they know how to spend your money better than you do.

Let's talk about failed policies. The trickle-down and supply-side theories have been around for nearly 40 years and in all that time, have they helped? Taxes are low. The job-creators have all the money they need to create jobs, and yet they don't do so. How, exactly, has Reaganomics HELPED? How are those policies, that conservatives cling to, helping now? How much more time should we give them before we decide they don't work and never will? (It would be nice if conservatives would give Obamacare as much of a chance of working as they have Reaganomics, but they declared "it doesn't work" even before it was fully implemented.)

Meanwhile....millions of good jobs go unfilled in this country, every year. Probably because its much easier to put on a special colored shirt and get a bullhorn and demand your current employer do something.

You should be praising the courage of the thousands of employees whose only demand is to reinstate the CEO who made the company work for EVERYBODY - management, workers at all levels, vendors and customers. Instead your implied sympathies are with the poor stockholders who handed themselves a $400 Billion dividend and the 2 new co-CEOs who are on their way to destroying another perfectly good company (second time around for both of them).

yeah..no...when was the last time you went into Radio Shack for...anything since the 80's? Me neither. That company wont exist soon, and not because the CEO destroyed it. Not buying it pal.

Considering Gooch was fired from Radio Shack because his policies as CEO helped drive it to where it is now. I had the unfortunate time as a manager of a store with him as the CEO of Radio Shack. So yes he did help destroy it and any one who says otherwise must be suffering from the cranium rectum inversion syndrome.

no one is buying what the shack is selling anymore...I've been in there once in the last 10 years, for a tiny tube of thermal paste...and neither of you two inversion syndrome poster children answered my question...what have you bought from RS in the last decade??

I have purchased an external HD, a 12vdc variable power supply, some 60/40 solder just to name a few things.

And I bought one thing in the last decade...and the other guy didnt bother to answer. Probably because his list was shorter than mine.

and besides..who said I was talking about MB employees...there were many groups/topics covered in this article...perhaps you should have read it before you went on your "you know all" rant..

Maybe you ought to specify what you're babbling about.

written like the reply of a true 5th grader

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