Skip to main content

This past weekend, I went with my husband to shop at Costco to stock up on household supplies, and to save money on our grocery bills since we are expecting our first child in March. We saved money on protein, and got our freezer stocked for the month with it. While we were there, the store was busy. The employees were helpful, kind, and one of them helped me load the groceries to be checked out at the cash register when my husband ran into the back of the store to pick up an item he'd wanted to get.

I looked around, and I saw what a high-performing wholesale store looks like with well-paid employees that have access to health care insurance. It didn't look like Costco was going out of business. There were no employees standing around, looking beaten and worn down. The cashiers didn't have the vacant, thousand-yard stare look that I often see on cashiers at Wal-Mart and other big box retailers.

Costco has been breaking the mold for many years, and flouting the myth pushed by short-term thinking on Wall Street that labor costs should be reduced to have high profit margins, as this article below shows:

The results: happy employees, enviable stock performance and a brilliant shopping model that, let’s face it, bludgeons consumers into shopping happily for more.

So what makes Costco so successful? Arguably the biggest difference is how the retailer treats its workers. Walk into any Costco and look at the name tags. Chances are you will read the phrases “since 2002,” “since 1999” and “since 1995.” Costco workers get paid very well compared to their counterparts at chains including Walmart. In fact, employees working on the floor can make a salary that reaches the mid-$40,000 range; not bad for someone who starts working for the company out of high school. And while the vast majority of Costco’s employees are not unionized (most of those are legacy employees from Price Club that the Teamsters represent), over 80 percent have competitively priced health insurance plans. The outcome includes more productive workers, lower turnover and for what it’s worth, relatively high job satisfaction.


Meanwhile the stock has performed well, sliding only when the rest of the economy took a dive during the post 9/11 aftershock and the 2008 fiscal crisis. If you bought Costco stock a decade ago, your investment has roughly tripled in value.

For all the talk on here about the "skills gap" and the "employer gap," Costco has been one of the major leaders in corporate social responsibility, and fair treatment of its workers. They get that happy, well-paid workers are more productive workers, and that they contribute more back to the economy. It isn't a new idea, but one that has been built upon the original idea by Henry Ford who decided to pay his workers more so that they could buy his products:
“There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” Henry Ford
Now, imagine if Wal-Mart followed the example of Costco. What would be the effect on the economy if Wal-Mart raised their wages for their employees? As this study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California at Berkeley shows, it would be a major overall positive impact on the economy, especially on the workers at Wal-Mart.
Our data suggests that a $12 per hour minimum wage standard at Walmart would be effective in aiding lower-income families. If Walmart increased its minimum wage to $12 per hour, 41.4 percent of the income gain would accrue to workers with wages below 200 percent FPL. These low-wage workers could expect to earn an additional $1,670 to $6,500 a year in income.

If Walmart passed on 100 percent of the wage increase to consumers through price increases, which is unlikely, the impact for the average Walmart shopper would be $12.49 a year (Table 6, page 8). We estimate that 28.1 percent of the impact of the price increase would be borne by shoppers with incomes below 200 percent FPL.

Imagine the effect it would have on low-income employees at Wal-Mart. Parents of little girls like Alyssa in this photo essay from Mother Jones could actually afford to fix up their place or get a trailer, and provide a safer place for their daughter to live.

But instead, we live in a topsy-turvsy world where big box retailers like Costco are the exception rather than the norm. And politicians are too reticent to call for an increase in the minimum wage, or to offer any new incentives to get employers to increase the wages of their employees.

After all, it's far too easy to blame it on a "skills gap" problem, and to blame it on the employees for not being educated enough, or not having the skills necessary for the millions of jobs available. Never mind the fact that when these potential employees actually train for the jobs, and apply, they're rejected because they don't want to work minimum wage and actually expect to be paid well for what they've learned and worked hard in school for.

The one thing that we can do right now as consumers is to support retailers that do well by their employees and actually practice a good corporate social responsibility model towards their workers. I'll continue shopping at Costco as long as they continue to treat their employees well.

Originally posted to slinkerwink on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:24 AM PST.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Progressive Policy Zone, and In Support of Labor and Unions.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

skybluewater, Andrew Lazarus, Jill, Pat K California, Louise, RichM, claude, Thumb, paradox, Ed in Montana, democrattotheend, Sylv, chuck utzman, jo fish, coral, Mogolori, Radiowalla, Odysseus, jotter, hester, Brainwrap, melo, samizdat, ogre, dalemac, teacherken, Timaeus, Liberal Thinking, SaveDemocracy, misscee, badger, Gooserock, Rolfyboy6, saraswati, bosdcla14, Sprinkles, TechBob, OtherDoug, donna in evanston, Wintermute, SanJoseLady, bramish, hyperstation, Aspe4, jdld, Mlle L, celdd, recentdemocrat, HarlemUSA, Bryce in Seattle, RFK Lives, Sandia Blanca, MarkInSanFran, Just Saying, Creosote, regis, cinnamon68, nicki37, bronte17, Zinman, 714day, susans, TracieLynn, CanadaGoose, cskendrick, cyberKosFan, wonkydonkey, annrose, nyceve, ellefarr, boadicea, Melquiades, themank, tmmike, mkfarkus, farmerhunt, chimpy, roses, limae, Fe, Torta, sngmama, jalbert, PeteZerria, Nate Roberts, wonmug, ctsteve, splashy, artebella, Alna Dem, sidnora, Chrisfs, Brit, wader, revsue, Quege, jdmorg, Lilyvt, suzq, ninothemindboggler, psnyder, liz dexic, TexDem, NYC Sophia, CitizenOfEarth, pat bunny, wordene, Noodles, roseeriter, exiledfromTN, duncanidaho, Bulldawg, HeyMikey, NYFM, niteskolar, Steven Payne, defluxion10, hazzcon, renaissance grrrl, lawstudent922, papercut, lcrp, riverlover, Democratic Hawk, Bendra, JayBat, zerelda, side pocket, lonespark, NapaJulie, Deward Hastings, TexasLefty, Emmy, valadon, rickeagle, rambler american, rmx2630, llellet, Sassy, J Orygun, Gowrie Gal, rapala, davidincleveland, joanneleon, paige, jabney, maybeeso in michigan, historys mysteries, Bluesee, radarlady, 3goldens, escapee, NoMoreLies, DianeNYS, Ckntfld, ichibon, JanetT in MD, chimene, OpherGopher, offred, one of 8, kitchen sink think tank, ccasas, Bcre8ve, dewtx, juliesie, TigerMom, Brooke In Seattle, YucatanMan, orson, Kevskos, Gary Norton, ratzo, fixxit, boofdah, eru, scribe69, owlbear1, majcmb1, Pam from Calif, Sun Tzu, Inland, elbamash, Kayakbiker, lotlizard, skyounkin, markdd, babatunde, Isara, Ozzie, spunhard, minidriver, Thursday Next, kentuckyscott, Rusty in PA, FindingMyVoice, sodalis, bunsk, Cory Bantic, peacestpete, RainyDay, Jim R, begone, Philpm, Born in NOLA, martini, third Party please, rserven, kovie, Showman, Hirodog, velaski, hlee1169, gwilson, BalanceSeeker, sierrartist, Debbie in ME, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, rcbowman, vigilant meerkat, cybersaur, 417els, emeraldmaiden, SciFiGuy, profundo, VolvoDrivingLiberal, Dvalkure, victoria2dc, martyc35, mskitty, blueoasis, triv33, tecampbell, MJ via Chicago, erratic, Lashe, twigg, Battling Maxo, joe shikspack, plf515, Spock36, tommyfocus2003, myrealname, ER Doc, middleagedhousewife, Turbonerd, SingerInTheChoir, BlueMississippi, democracy is coming, CA Nana, zhimbo, Timothy J, doingbusinessas, emsprater, BB10, fiddlingnero, cherryXXX69, frankzappatista, Dreaming of Better Days, kurt, nannyboz, shaharazade, Tom Anderson, Temmoku, sea note, Quicklund, Pandoras Box, Aaa T Tudeattack, cpresley, tegrat, Tamar, One Pissed Off Liberal, Sapere aude, FlamingoGrrl, john07801, out of left field, bluicebank, A Mad Mad World, Cronesense, Habitat Vic, Cat Whisperer, tgypsy, camlbacker, weneedahero, possum, moodyinsavannah, Debs2, LSophia, ColoTim, offgrid, aravir, puakev, threegoal, unionboy, DvCM, wildweasels, terabytes, dclawyer06, deepeco, DWG, joedemocrat, aliasalias, newpioneer, Kentucky Kid, HCKAD, vfxartist1, jedennis, Nimbus, letsgetreal, crose, cyncynical, Killer of Sacred Cows, SeaTurtle, bobswern, Moderation, Bridge Master, carpunder, hopi13, OIL GUY, RudiB, pioneer111, uciguy30, Sarea, GeorgeXVIII, leonard145b, crystalboy, Brahman Colorado, madgranny, South Park Democrat, wuod kwatch, TomP, rmonroe, JDWolverton, thankgodforairamerica, GANJA, mconvente, TruthFreedomKindness, left turn, ChocolateChris, NotGeorgeWill, wayoutinthestix, califdem, MikePhoenix, Marko the Werelynx, ScottyUrb, Aureas2, Involuntary Exile, elwior, young montana voter, Buckeye Nut Schell, Akonitum, jamess, mikeconwell, monkeybrainpolitics, here4tehbeer, Lujane, tofumagoo, royce, davekro, pademocrat, pickandshovel, catly, NogodsnomastersMary, alnep, mofembot, No Exit, Taget, Notreadytobenice, venger, dan667, suesue, priceman, Quilldriver, Guadalupe59, tristan57, Ellinorianne, enufisenuf, watercarrier4diogenes, shortgirl, lissablack, statsone, ZhenRen, humanunit, maxcat06, oldliberal, Fiddlegirl, 207wickedgood, clent, maggiejean, Bule Betawi, pileta, Rhysling, J M F, Rick Aucoin, ARS, greengemini, Domestic Elf, hummingbird4015, not a cent, banjolele, Mislead, Don Enrique, Zotz, Canadian Green Card Alien, shopkeeper, CamillesDad1, ThompsonLazyBoy, GreenMtnState, prgsvmama26, geebeebee, asym, bfitzinAR, MySobriquet, jazzence, paintitblue, kevinpdx, Shelley99, realwischeese, stevenwag, sfarkash, mdmslle, 57andFemale, maxzj05, DaNang65, haremoor, jfromga, nancat357, xylem, astral66, schnecke21, futureliveshere, Tommymac, Randtntx, deviant24x, jpmassar, Leftcandid, Larsstephens, Words In Action, DemFromPit, ruscle, Sarbec, henlesloop, oceanrain, p gorden lippy, gramofsam1, Tea and Strumpets, Susan Grigsby, Ray Blake, piers, fidellio, eb23, Crabby Abbey, jakedog42, Lost and Found, ATFILLINOIS, RJP9999, Eddie L, dharmachord, MelKnee, JoanMar, cordgrass, gulfgal98, Kristina40, anonevent, DiegoUK, nawlinscate, nirbama, Betty Pinson, Patate, ericlewis0, Murchadha, USHomeopath, science nerd, Oh Mary Oh, fiercefilms, soaglow, Mac in Maine, theKgirls, Onomastic, annieli, praying manatheist, redlum jak, yellow cosmic seed, kerflooey, MidwestTreeHugger, allenjo, mama jo, the mom in the middle, Philly526, Quite Contrary, KikiK, AnnieWest, StateofEuphoria, spooks51, Bob Duck, bgblcklab1, slowbutsure, afisher, implicate order, vahana, Cintimcmomma, La Gitane, OldGrammy, ardyess, UtahLibrul, Seitanist, asterkitty, Sand Hill Crane, OhioNatureMom, kevin k, page394, lupinella, EquityRoy, miscanthus, Late Spring, molunkusmol, trumpeter, Lusty, zukesgirl64, Cinnamon, thomask, dle2GA, slooterdam, muddy boots, Fresno, KVoimakas, SueM1121, tardis10, LSmith, CherryTheTart, Grandma Susie, jgnyc, wintergreen8694, corvaire, peregrine kate, bluedust, PhilJD, Daulphin, sound of progress, poliwrangler, Wood Dragon, diffrntdrummr, Marihilda, cjo30080, FisherOfRolando, smirking, cailloux, Vatexia, Democrats Ramshield, jolux, ratcityreprobate, MikeBoyScout, RLMiller, jham710, googie, Mentatmark, CgntvDssdnt, jaebone, PrometheusUnbound, Mortifyd, Southern Lib, SuWho, 50sbaby, rosette, jacey, worldforallpeopleorg, StonyB, cwsmoke, Siri, We Won, IndieGuy, ahumbleopinion, Trevin, orpurple, Joieau, a2nite, FloridaSNMOM, Trotskyrepublican, deanarms, Dave in AZ, This old man, cherie clark, Mr Robert, cardplayingdog, peachcreek, BusyinCA, pdxteacher, pittie70, Margd, james321, oldpotsmuggler, avsp, Victim of Circumstance, Glen The Plumber, T C Gibian, dotdash2u, Marjmar, databob, Windowpane, maf1029, Robynhood too, efrenzy, Blue Dream, mygreekamphora, Blue Bell Bookworm, Chaddiwicker, ForestLake, DamselleFly, Short Bus, countwebb, kickthecan, Late Again, Thornrose, levondunn, Setsuna Mudo, SanFernandoValleyMom, dear occupant, broths, weck, gypsytoo, mtnlvr1946, Dewstino, aresea, Yo Bubba, alice kleeman, RichHubie, knitwithpurpose, Jollie Ollie Orange, howabout, Icicle68, Smoh, Avilyn, ModerateJosh, NotAhab, rigcath, Rooe, Fairlithe, Expat Okie, marcr22, zakandsantos, LilithGardener, bontemps2012, Jim Domenico, GrahamL, pipercity1, sparkysgal, dreamweaver1, leaf63, amity75, markc9503, Blackhawks, El Bloguero, kfunk937, funtony47

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site