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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Man behind Janus case says public unions will have to sell themselves better after Supreme Court ruling

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The Illinois state worker behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public workers cannot be forced to pay union dues said Thursday morning that the unions will be forced to do a better job selling themselves.

Man behind Janus case says public unions will have to sell themselves better after Supreme Court ruling

Image: (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

“A lot of these unions have asked for, and received, the ability to inclusively, collectively bargain for everybody,” Mark Janus said during an interview with Albany radio. “Now that this decision has come down, they’re going to have to come out and sell a product, if you will, and they will have to prove to the individuals that there is a definite benefit for being part of the union.”

Janus — who said the decision will save him about $50 a month — said it was more about the issue than the money. He called it “mainly a matter of choice.”

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Judge blocks Obama rule extending overtime pay to 4.2 million U.S. workers

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A federal judge on Tuesday blocked an Obama administration rule to extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers from taking effect, imperiling one of the outgoing president’s signature achievements for boosting wages.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, in Sherman, Texas, agreed with 21 states and a coalition of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that the rule is unlawful and granted their motion for a nationwide injunction.

The rule, issued by the Labor Department, was to take effect Dec. 1 and would have doubled to $47,500 the maximum salary a worker can earn and still be eligible for mandatory overtime pay. The new threshold would have been the first significant change in four decades.

It was expected to touch nearly every sector of the U.S. economy and have the greatest impact on nonprofit groups, retail companies, hotels and restaurants, which have many management workers whose salaries are below the new threshold.

The states and business groups claimed in lawsuits filed in September, which were later consolidated, that the drastic increase in the salary threshold was arbitrary.

On Tuesday, Mazzant, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, ruled that the federal law governing overtime does not allow the Labor Department to decide which workers are eligible based on salary levels alone.

The Fair Labor Standards Act says that employees can be exempt from overtime if they perform executive, administrative or professional duties, but the rule “creates essentially a de facto salary-only test,” Mazzant wrote in the 20-page ruling.

The states and business groups that challenged the rule applauded the decision.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt said in a statement that the ruling “reinforces the importance of the rule of law and constitutional government.”

The Labor Department said it strongly disagrees with the decision. It remains confident that the entire rule is legal, and it is currently considering its options, department spokesman Jason Surbey said.

The Labor Department can appeal to the New Orleans, Louisiana-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that court has stymied the Obama administration before, blocking Obama’s executive actions on immigration in 2015.

In any case, the Labor Department could drop the appeal after Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January.

In August, Trump told the website Circa that the overtime rule was an example of the type of burdensome business regulations he would seek to roll back as president, perhaps by exempting small businesses or delaying implementation.

Even if the rule survived the legal challenge, it could be upended by legislation passed by Congress or withdrawn by Trump’s Department of Labor.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce official Randy Johnson said in a statement that the rule would have been costly and disruptive to businesses.

But Ross Eisenbrey of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, which supported the rule, called the decision “extreme and unsupportable.”

“It is also a disappointment to millions of workers who are forced to work long hours with no extra compensation, and is a blow to those Americans who care deeply about raising wages and lessening inequality,” Eisenbrey said in a statement.

The case is Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, No. 16-cv-731.

By Daniel Wiessner and Robert Iafolla/Reuters

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

Wal-Mart to shutter 269 stores, 154 of them in the US

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Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, more than half of them in the U.S. and another big chunk in its challenging Brazilian market.

Walmart exterior

Image: WRAL.com

The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue.

More than 95 percent of the stores set to be closed in the U.S. are within 10 miles of another Wal-Mart. The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it is working to ensure that workers are placed in nearby locations.

The store closures will start at the end of the month.

The announcement comes three months after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Doug McMillon told investors that the world’s largest retailer would review its fleet of stores with the goal of becoming more nimble in the face of increased competition from all fronts, including from online rival Amazon.com.

“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business,” McMillon said in a statement. “Closing stores is never an easy decision. But it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future.”

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Opinion: The Costs of a $15 Minimum Wage

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On the 1970s, when oil prices jumped, most liberals embraced a simple solution: price controls. It should be illegal, they thought, to sell oil or gasoline for more than a certain amount. Americans should be able to drive without being fleeced by oil companies and foreign governments.

The impulse was understandable. Gasoline is an essential commodity for most people. When the cost rises, it imposes a heavy burden on consumers, most of whom have few transportation options.

In 1971, in an attempt to tame inflation, Republican President Richard Nixon imposed controls on almost all prices. By 1974, he had lifted most of them. But those on gas remained. Under Democratic President Jimmy Carter, they led to widespread shortages and long lines at service stations—and didn’t keep prices from rising. But the controls lasted until his successor, Ronald Reagan, lifted them in 1981.

Liberals learned an unforgettable lesson: Price controls on gasoline don’t work. In recent decades, when gas prices have soared, Democrats have shown no desire to repeat the lesson.

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Nearly 40 Percent Of Wal-Mart’s US Workers To Get Pay Raises

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Image: Dallas Fort Worth

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is spending $1 billion to make changes to how it pays and trains U.S. hourly workers as the embattled retailer tries to reshape the image that its stores offer dead-end jobs.

As part of its biggest investment in worker training and pay ever, Wal-Mart told The Associated Press that within the next six months it will give raises to about 500,000 workers, or nearly 40 percent of its 1.3 million U.S. employees. Wal-Mart follows other retailers that have boosted hourly pay recently, but because it’s the nation’s largest private employer, the impact of its move will be more closely watched.

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Study: 1 In 3 Grocery Workers Receive Some Type Of Public Assistance

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Image: CBS Los Angeles

One out of three grocery workers in California is receiving some type of public assistance while one in five rations the food he or she helps sell, according to a study released Monday.

KNX 1070′s Claudia Peschiutta reports University of California researchers – commissioned by labor union United Food and Commercial Workers – interviewed 925 people who work for supermarket chains, smaller ethnic markets or in the grocery sections of big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

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