North America's Strongest Union

The Great American Ripoff

Teamsters Leading the Way Toward Economic Justice

It’s a no-brainer.

As taxpayers, Teamsters and other working families should not be subsidizing corporations and billionaire businessmen who don’t pay their workers a living wage.

At some of our country’s most profitable corporations—Walmart and McDonald’s to name two of the biggest offenders—workers are paid wages so low they are forced onto food stamps and other forms of government assistance. At the same time, the money the corporation saves by not paying workers a living wage goes directly into the pockets of the already wealthy.

In much the same that the middle class was forced to bail out billionaire bankers during the financial crisis, it boggles the mind that working Americans are forced to again subsidize those that are already filthy rich.

“The big corporations of this country need to step up and pay their workers enough to meet basic needs,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Our tax dollars should not be used to subsidize corporations that make billions in profits.”

There is a growing movement against corporate welfare. People are taking a stand and Teamsters, along with the rest of the labor movement, are leading the way.

Workers are rising up and demanding economic justice. By organizing, workers being mistreated can do something about their wages and improve their workplace protections. The Teamsters Union has ramped up their organizing efforts on behalf of those who have been trampled on by their wealthy employers.

“Organizing is the only tried and true way for working people to gain respect in the workplace,” said Ken Hall, Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer.

Public Cost

A living wage is considered the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs. When a worker can’t make a living wage, he or she often turns to public assistance. It should come as no surprise that fast-food workers and those employed by Walmart are among the most mistreated workers…and among workers who are forced to rely on public assistance. In many states, workers at Walmart constitute the largest bloc of food stamp and Medicaid recipients.

Right now, the minimum wage stands at just $7.25 an hour and hasn't been increased since 2009. If the minimum wage kept up with inflation over the past 40 years, it would be $10.74. And if it kept up with the rise in productivity it would be $18.67. The annual income for a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage is $15,080, well below the poverty line for a family of three or four.

Teamster members work under contracts and are far less susceptible to the whims of the market, but every working American who pays taxes is still on the hook to help pay for public assistance for billion-dollar corporations.

Many people working in service sectors like retail and fast food are middle aged and working full time to support their families. The average age of workers filling service job positions is 35 and more than a third of them are 40 or older. On average, they earn half of their family's income and 28 percent of them have kids.

Getting a living wage for working families will, in the end, save taxpayers a lot of money. Also, higher pay means lower employee turnover and higher productivity for business. Plus, higher wages will boost consumer spending and strengthen local economies.

The estimated annual cost of public assistance to employees at the 10 largest fast-food companies amounts to $3.8 billion.

McDonald’s made $7.15 billion last year. While McDonald’s gamed the system and fleeced taxpayers, management was awarded generous contribution packages and substantial amounts of money in dividends and share buybacks.

“How can it be fair that these workers are forced to be on public assistance by their wealthy employers,” Hoffa said. “How can the heirs to Walmart, who own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America combined, be allowed to rip off American taxpayers to further line their pockets? It makes no sense.”

Living Wage

The Teamsters Union is fighting for a living wage for all working Americans. They do this by organizing those in industries where workers are commonly taken advantage of, like bus drivers, warehouse workers and port truckers, among others.

Unions lift wages for nonunion workers as well as those in the union by creating a prevailing wage. Basically, even if you’re not a union member, your wages are lifted by union bargaining units doing similar work.

That’s why the Teamsters Union and their partners in other unions, notably the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), have assisted with walkouts and strikes by those being mistreated.

The union is also fighting back against corporate front groups—like ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce—that routinely fight against the interests of working families and on behalf of millionaires and billionaires.

A recent story in Time magazine spells out how unions help our economy: “The fact is that when unions are stronger the economy as a whole does better. Unions restore demand to an economy by raising wages for their members and putting more purchasing power to work, enabling more hiring. On the flip side, when labor is weak and capital unconstrained, corporations hoard, hiring slows, and inequality deepens. Thus we have today both record highs in corporate profits and record lows in wages,” the story states.