Two years ago, I talked about the common talking point that rampant shoplifting led corporations like Home Depot, Target and Walgreens to shut down their stores in the lawless wasteland of the San Francisco Bay Area, which just so happens to be the dystopian Thunderdome I call home. My dystopian Thunderhome.
These claims were bolstered by the corporations’ trade group,The National Retail Federation, releasing a report that said organized shoplifting accounted for nearly $50 BILLION in loss. My thesis at the time was that, first of all, no one should be worrying themselves over other people shoplifting from big box stores. These stores game our real estate markets and taxation systems to extract as much money as possible from a community while destroying local businesses and paying employees so little they are forced onto public assistance to be able to eat.
And second of all, the retailers were clearly lying: Walgreens, for instance, was closing stores for the same reason they’d been closing them for years – because they opened too many stores right across the street from each other and they were having trouble finding the money to continue paying their new CEO “$1.5 million per year salary with a $25 million signing bonus, an annual bonus of up to 200% her earnings, an additional $11 million in stock options each year, relocation costs, benefits, and use of the corporate jet for up to 50 hours each year.”
Oh plus they just settled a lawsuit forcing them to repay their employees $4.5 million in stolen wages and also they gave $110 million to that scam artist Elizabeth Holmes. Among other things.
That video was met with a LOT of hate, with many people calling me a psycho who can’t see what is obvious to everyone else who have seen hundreds of shaky cell phone footage of roving bands of thieves ransacking these poor storefronts and driving them out of business.
Anyway, since then it seemed like every few months a new study or leak would drop revealing that I was right and the corporate bootlickers were wrong, which is very satisfying and honestly I deserve a medal for holding off on making a video bragging about it until now. The latest news is that last month, a Retail Dive investigation revealed that The National Retail Federation used bad data to come up with their bullshit headline that organized theft accounted for nearly half of their $94.5 billion in missing merchandise in 2021. As the New York Times revealed a few weeks ago, that seems to have led The National Retail Federation themselves to admit they were wrong, retracting that 2021 report and admitting that by “nearly half” they actually mean “about 5%.” It was all a “mirage.” A very convenient one for retailers!
In fact, the New York Times reported, “retail theft has been lower this year in most of the country than it was a few years ago, according to police data. Some exceptions, including New York City, exist. But in most major cities, shoplifting incidents have fallen 7 percent since 2019.”
You might be wondering, if I’ve been humbly remaining quiet about HOW RIGHT I WAS for two years, why make a video now, weeks after the final nail has been solidly hammered into the “organized theft” coffin?
Because this morning I woke up to the news that a brand new bullshit corporate excuse for their own malfeasance has just dropped: Pizza Hut franchises in California lay off all delivery drivers ahead of minimum wage increase! Oh no! People are losing their jobs because the mean old liberals of California are forcing mom and pop restaurants to pay their employees a living wage! Boo hoo!
That headline is from my own San Francisco Chronicle but almost the exact same headline and article is also in today’s New York Post, Fox Business, USA Today, Business Insider, and the Daily Mail. Are they all plagiarizing each other? I don’t think so. I think they’re all just copying from the same press release that probably came right from Yum! Foods, the multinational conglomerate that owns Pizza Hut.
Before I get into the details, let me just answer the question you’re currently asking: yes, Pizza Hut still exists. And yes, it does suck ass now. Out of curiosity, I looked up my own local Pizza Huts on Yelp. This one has 1.9 stars out of 5 and top reviews say the pizza is “disappointing,” “gross,” or just completely missing, and this is interesting, that they refuse to deliver less than two miles away and hang up when the order is changed to “pick-up.” That’s interesting, I wonder if that is at all related to today’s topic.
So yes, next spring a new California law will require fast food companies to pay their workers a minimum of $20 an hour. Currently, the state’s half a million fast food employees earn $3 less than comparable jobs in other industries and one out of every five families with a fast food worker live below the poverty line.
Whenever anyone talks about raising the minimum wage in any industry in any state in the US, it is a statistical impossibility to avoid hearing someone complain that this will force businesses to lay off employees. And wouldn’t an employee rather have $15 an hour instead of zero dollars an hour?
This argument isn’t new. I recently reread The Grapes of Wrath, which is an absolute banger and if you haven’t read it it WILL radicalize you. It was published in 1939 and maps out all the same problems we see today: industry setting wages low, knowing if one man won’t accept 30 cents for a 50-cent job, a hungrier man will; claiming they can’t afford to pay more while living in luxury; firing, arresting, beating, and murdering the people who even discuss banding together to demand a living wage; paying scabs higher wages until the people who are striking are done away with, and then paying them even less; and on and on and on. The number of times I stopped reading just to say “oh my god, it’s all still the same shit” is incredible.
So of course the fast food industry fought hard against the new California law. It was originally $22 an hour, and a government council would have the ability to force companies to provide better working conditions for employees, and a franchise restaurant’s parent company would be on the hook for any violations. But the industry got a compromise: $20 an hour, no required improvements to working conditions, and only the franchise owner would be liable for violations.
Yet still, they’re not happy. Thus we get this press release: paying these employees a few extra dollars an hour, that’s why all delivery drivers will be fired.
But…why only delivery drivers? Why not lay off some people at the counter, or operating the pizza ovens? Or, gosh, why not a pay cut for the executives, like those who are running the $36–80 million (or more) Pizza Hut franchisee PacPizza that owns dozens of restaurants and is part of a $7 billion corporation? Just kidding, that would obviously never be on the table and you know why.
But why the drivers, specifically? Well, because unlike the cooks and the cashiers, the drivers already have a large crowd of hungrier men standing behind them willing to take 30 cents for a 50-cent job. Those are what we call “gig workers,” and they are the people driving for GrubHub and UberEats and other companies that, like the fast food industry, have lobbied for years to be able to pay their employees – sorry, I mean their independent contractors – less and less money for more and more work. They pay them so little that they were able to spend more than $200 million to pass one California proposition in 2020 that allowed them to avoid treating their employees as employees and thus pay them a living wage.
So in fact, Pizza Hut’s delivery drivers simply could never compete with an army of “gig workers,” who will deliver Pizza Hut’s shitty food without the need for Pizza Hut to spend money on things like cars or insurance or gas or, yes, a guaranteed living wage. Those gig workers would never take a Pizza Hut franchisee owner to court in a class action lawsuit for failing to reimburse them for their miles driven, which is what happened to the PacPizza franchise in 2015. I wonder if that case left them feeling some kind of way about their delivery drivers? I wonder why none of those articles about PacPizza firing all of its drivers mentioned it? I wonder why our mainstream journalists can’t practice basic critical thinking, and why it is then left to the reader to seek out relevant background information and figure out whether or not the company has any reason to lie about their motivations for things like firing more than 1,200 low wage employees?
Ah well, maybe in another two years someone will be able to puzzle through all this and figure out what’s really going on.