While companies tell workers that they have no choice but to let them go, they are continuing to pay investors handsomely.
“Since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Caterpillar has suspended operations at two plants and a foundry, Levi Strauss has closed stores, and toolmaker Stanley Black & Decker has been planning layoffs and furloughs . . .
And as thousands of their workers were filing for unemployment benefits, these companies also rewarded their shareholders with more than $700 million in cash dividends. They are not alone. As the pandemic squeezes big companies, executives are making decisions about who will bear the brunt of the sacrifices, and in at least some cases, workers have been the first to lose, even as shareholders continue to collect.
Executives say the layoffs support the long-term health of their companies, and often the executives are giving up a piece of their salaries. Furloughed workers can apply for unemployment benefits. But distributing millions of dollars to shareholders while leaving many workers without a paycheck is unfair, critics argue, and belies the repeated statements from executives about their concern for employees’ welfare during the coronavirus crisis.
Caterpillar, for example, announced a $500 million distribution to shareholders April 8, about two weeks after indicating that operations at some plants would stop. The company declined to say how many workers are affected . . .
Similarly, Levi Strauss announced April 7 that the company would stop paying store workers, and about 4,000 are now on furlough. On the same day, the company announced that it was returning $32 million to shareholders . . .
Stanley Black & Decker announced on April 2 that it was planning furloughs and layoffs because of the pandemic. Two weeks later, it issued a dividend to shareholders of about $106 million.”
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