This week: CEO servant leadership; low wage nation; Walmart raises hackles; Seattle restaurant update; and going beyond organic.
How many feet he wash lately?
If you thought the Republican Presidential debate got more than a little weird, here’s something even weirder in the world of nonsense national politics: apparently NY Times gossip columnist Maureen Dowd may have actually had a source when she suggested that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz might run for President. But if you’re the one person excited by the prospect of an electoral campaign inspired by the practice of requiring employees to write two-word slogans on cups in response to social issues, you’re going to have to find a different CEO, because Schultz claimed a whole op-ed column in the NYT to explain why he’s not running after all.
It’s the kind of manifesto that would be described as “self-styled” if he were a serial killer, touching on topics including the pope washing people’s feet, how we can’t afford fool’s gold, optimism and Millennials, lots of rhetorical questions, and a Rabbi saying something wise. As a bonus, it also seems to presume that “food-stamp dependency” is a problem separate from the poverty-wage economy in industries like coffee. But he’s a CEO, so it gets taken as a serious comment about… something.
Good news: textile mills are moving back to the US, part of the booming industrial base in the US South.
Bad news: these textile mills are investing because the cost of production in the US South is now competitive with China, where the mills are moving from. For real: through a combination of low wages, government subsidies, and a web of trade deals, the US South is now sometimes lower-cost than China.
Rolling back morale
Bloomberg reports somewhat gleefully this week on what they say is an “unintended consequence” of Walmart’s recent pay raise: unhappy workers. No, not the ones who got the raises, but rather that set of workers who are now getting a smaller margin over the starting rate than they had been accustomed to.
Some of the worker comments are interesting, suggesting an underlying utter lack of faith that Walmart management is capable of doing anything positive. And last-place aversion is a real political-psychological phenomenon that wage campaigns have to reckon with. But it’s curious that supposedly Walmart sees only negative response to raising wages, when Ikea has been “very pleased” by the results of their recent wage hike, Trader Joe’s and QuikTrip thrive on a (relatively) high-wage pay structure, Costco has built an entire business model on it, and it’s even become a whole new-wave management philosophy.
Is Walmart’s corporate culture really so toxic that it can even turn higher wages into bad feelings?
Anecdotes gone wild
Back in May, NPR ran a big story on restaurants “struggling" with $15 in Seattle. While it didn’t feature a single worker or even customer of a Seattle restaurant, it did include 4 business owners fretting sympathetically. Since then, something happened with each of these four restauranteurs that undermined their arguments against $15 — many of them in just the past week.
- Jeremy Hardy told NPR the wage increase was forcing cuts and he was “juggling with daggers.” His latest new Seattle restaurant opens Saturday.
- Ivar’s told NPR it was “too early” to judge their $15 experiment, but this week they announced revenue was “soaring” and their quick increase to $15 has been a success for workers, customers, and the business.
- zPizza told NPR they simply couldn’t afford to stay in business under the $15 law, but a different pizza chain announced it was moving in to the same location.
- Tom Douglas offered NPR his usual fretting over the $15 law, but his investments speak more loudly: his 18th joint opened in July.
Don't panic it's organic
A French bull jumped into the stands and gored the president of the local bullfighting club and a photographer who was sitting in the next seat. The bull was executed.
A Texas man shot an armadillo, and was hit by the richocheting bullet. Authorities say the “investigation is ongoing.”
A California woman found a dead frog in a package of triple-washed organic salad greens she bought at Sam’s Club. She is threatening to never eat a salad again.