As a grocery chain is dismantled, investors recover their money. Worker pensions are short millions

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Once the Marsh Supermarkets chain began to falter a few years ago, its owner, a private-equity firm, began selling off the vast retail empire, piece by piece. The company sold more than 100 convenience stores. It sold the pharmacies. It closed some of the 115 grocery stores, having previously auctioned off their real estate. Then, in May 2017, the company announced the closure of the remaining 44 stores.

Image: Washington Post

Marsh Supermarkets, founded in 1931, had at last filed for bankruptcy.

“It was a long, slow decline,” said Amy Gerken, formerly an assistant office manager at one of the stores. Sun Capital Partners, the private-equity firm that owned Marsh, “didn’t really know how grocery stores work. We’d joke about them being on a yacht without even knowing what a UPC code is. But they didn’t treat employees right, and since the bankruptcy, everyone is out for their blood.”

The anger arises because although the sell-off allowed Sun Capital and its investors to recover their money and then some, the company entered bankruptcy leaving unpaid more than $80 million in debts to workers’ severance and pensions.

For Sun Capital, this process of buying companies, seeking profits and leaving pensions unpaid is a familiar one. Over the past 10 years, it has taken five companies into bankruptcy while leaving behind debts of about $280 million owed to employee pensions.

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Ted Cruz warns of “Watergate-style blowout” in 2018

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Wealthy conservative donors and influential Republican lawmakers say they increasingly fear a historic backlash at the ballot box next year if the GOP effort to pass a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws falls short in the coming months.

Image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Lincoln Center

At a two-day midtown Manhattan summit of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers’ powerful donor network, GOP patrons, senators and strategists spoke in cataclysmic terms about the price they expect to pay in the midterm elections if their tax reform effort does not win passage.

They voiced concerns a demoralized Republican base would stay home, financiers would stop writing campaign donation checks to incumbents and the congressional majorities the party has built in the House and Senate could evaporate overnight.

To head that off, the same Republicans said they are waging an intense, multi-front effort in and outside of Congress and the White House to shepherd the endeavor to the finish line.

Koch network officials said they have invested more than $10 million this year in advocating for the GOP tax plan.

Art Pope, a major conservative donor from North Carolina, put it this way: “When you have lack of success, that may depress voter turnout for Republicans, that may depress donations for Republicans and conservatives.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) warned that Republicans could face a “Watergate-level blowout” in the midterm elections if they don’t make major legislative strides on taxes and health care, invoking the political scandal that brought down Richard Nixon’s presidency and set back the GOP considerably in subsequent elections.

“If tax reform crashes and burns, if [on] Obamacare, nothing happens, we could face a bloodbath,” said Cruz, who spoke in a moderated discussion.

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AT&T to acquire DirecTV in $48.5 billion deal

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Image: AP

 

AT&T plans to acquire satellite TV operator DirecTV for $48.5 billion, the companies announced Sunday, marking the latest in a series of mega-mergers that are reshaping the cable and telecom landscapes.

The deal would elevate AT&T, the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier, into a major player in the pay-TV business. The company would have 26 million video subscribers after combining DirecTV with its existing landline TV offering, U-verse.

That could help AT&T bundle video and Internet services to better compete with Comcast, which is making its own $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable. In another sign of industry consolidation, SoftBank, fresh off its successful acquisition of Sprint, is reportedly lining up an offer for T-Mobile.

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Fracking opponents in Pennsylvania dealt rare victory by state court

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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that a 2012 fracking law allowing gas companies to drill anywhere in the state without regard to local zoning laws is unconstitutional.

The court’s decision called the state’s Marcellus Shale drilling law, Act 13, unconstitutional given restrictions it placed on municipalities’ rights. The ruling also sent back to Commonwealth Court – one of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts – challenges by local townships and individuals to the law’s provisions that barred doctors from passing along to patients the health risks associated with shale drilling, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

In the majority opinion, the justices cited Article 1 Section 27 of the Pennsylvania State Constitution, which guarantees the “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

“When government acts, the actions must on balance reasonably account for the environment of the affected locale,” wrote the majority, Chief Justice Ronald Castille and Justices Debra McCloskey Todd, Seamus McCaffery and Max Baer.

Dissenting opinions were written by Justices Thomas Saylor and J. Michael Eakin. Commission President Deron Gabriel of South Fayette, one of the municipalities challenging the law, said the decision preserves local communities’ rights in the face of an unrelenting industry.

“Preserving zoning is vital to local planning efforts, in order to keep industrial activity out of residential and commercial areas,” Gabriel told the Post-Gazette. “Now we can keep industrial activities away from our school and residences, and there’s been more and more of a push by the industry to locate closer to the residential areas.”

John Smith, the attorney who brought the case for South Fayette and other localities, said the decision was, overall, a victory for citizens standing up against the state’s favorable treatment of corporate interests over the rights of the people.

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6 Reasons Privatization Often Ends in Disaster

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Image: Alternet

Private systems are focused on making profits for a few well-positioned people. Public systems, when sufficiently supported by taxes, work for everyone in a generally equitable manner.

The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn’t work.

1. The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top

The federal Medicare Administrator made $170,000 in 2010. The president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas made over  ten times as much in 2012. Stephen J. Hemsley, the CEO of United Health Group, made almost  300 timesas much in one year, $48 million, most of it from company stock.

More from Alternet…Fascinating!

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Holy Freeloading! 10 Ways Religious Groups Suck on the Public Purse

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Religion is big business, especially with the help of your tax dollars.

Image: awaypoint.wordpress.com

Have you ever thought about starting a new religion or perhaps a hometown franchise of an old one? Perhaps you’re just looking for a career ladder in a religious enterprise that already exists. No? Maybe you should.

Religion is big business. There are lots of options ( over 30,000 variants of Christianity alone), and if the scale is right  it can pay really, really well. Creflo Dollar, founder of World Changers Church, has an estimated net worth of $27 million. Benny Hinn comes in at $42 million. Squeaky clean tent revival pioneer Billy Graham bankrolled around $25 million. Even  Eddie Long who has been plagued by accusations of sex with underage male members of his congregation can count his bankbook in the millions.

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Wal-Mart Moves Forward With First D.C. Stores After Mayor Vetoes ‘Living Wage’

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Wal-Mart will move forward with plans for its first stores in the nation’s capital after Mayor Vincent Gray vetoed the city council’s bill that mandated higher wages for so-called big-box stores.

PHOTO: Walmart protest

Image: ABC News

The nation’s largest private employer halted plans for three local stores after the D.C. Council approved a bill on July 10 that would have boosted minimum wages paid by large retailers by nearly $5 an hour.

In a letter to the city council explaining his decision, Gray wrote, “The bill is not a true living-wage bill, because it would raise the minimum wage only for a small fraction of the District’s workforce.”

He called for a living wage for all district residents.

“The bill is a job-killer, because nearly every large retailer now considering opening a store in the District has indicated that they will not come here or expand here if this bill becomes law,” he wrote.

Wal-Mart applauded Gray’s long-awaited decision.

“Mayor Gray has chosen jobs, economic development and common sense over special interests – and that’s good news for D.C. residents,” Steven Restivo, senior director of communications for Wal-Mart, said in a statement. “Now that this discriminatory legislation is behind us, we will move forward on our first stores in our nation’s capital.”

Restivo said the company looks forward to finishing the work that began almost three years ago: “a plan to bring more jobs, shopping options and fresh food choices to Washington, D.C. residents.”

The so-called “living wage” through the council’s Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) was criticized by some council members for unfairly targeting Wal-Mart.

The LRAA forced big-box stores like Wal-Mart to pay workers at least $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25. In the U.S., the average wage for a full-time hourly Wal-Mart associate is $12.57, according to the company. That’s about $25,000 a year at 40 hours a week, or just above the federal poverty level of $23,050 for a family of four. But many part-time workers at the company make little more than the minimum wage.

When Wal-Mart decided to open stores in D.C., announcing in November 2010 the initial stage of its plans, the retailer said it was committed to understanding the communities where it hopes to do business. The company has previously said it has participated in more than 200 community meetings and documented its commitment to “help stimulate economic development, expand access to affordable groceries and create quality jobs in the city.”

From ABC News

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Also Read: California set for historic minimum wage raise while DC rejects ‘living wage bill’

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