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Bringing Ethical Values to an Unethical Corporation

Updated on December 4, 2017

Cause & Effect

Our nation is one that is for the people. A functioning shinning example of democracy that more than anything else, established in writing long ago to protect the rights of the people. The idea that we as a nation have a moral obligation to protect the rights of each and every one citizen however has somehow escaped corporate America. Capitalism seems to have quietly become the new value system and large corporations will exploit and take advantage of any and everyone, customers and employees, in the name of profitability.

This way of thinking has somehow escaped me as every large corporations I have worked for will sell potential employees the idea that their company is the company you want to work for, take honor in wearing their uniform and they will pay a decent wage. But once you join, upper and low-level management are driven by numbers and profits. Hourly employees are deemed expendable, jobs are threatened for quotas & productivity. Therefore, turn-over rates within these large companies rises and there is no job security whatsoever. It would seem that in today's economic & social climate, capitalism gives corporations the authority to capitalize on its own customers & employees, with no moral obligation and very little federal regulation. I understand the rules of economics but these rules should not compromise the integrity of a company or the value of those individuals companies employ. Bottom line, making the all mighty dollar in America has become more important than securing, educating and protecting the seemingly expendable American worker.

Politics, Red-tape and unethical management tactics rule today's workplace for an hourly employee. My worst experience was working for AutoZone. For my entire six-months of employment at the distribution center in Terrell, Texas, I witnessed and was a victim of the abuse of power from the management team. From ignoring various concerns the hourly staff addressed to management, to retaliation with disciplinary action for speaking up, to aggressive management tactics that could even be view in some circles as harassment. Threats to employees to make production became the primary rule and the drive to met or exceed quotas, production and profits take a front seat over providing, protecting & securing the jobs of the employees.

This consistently negative atmosphere has a profound effect on the hourly staff. Morale is low, faith in the management team is mediocre at best. We begin to lose key members of the hourly team under very questionable circumstances. Training for new employees is poor & inadequate. We have since begin to speak out in D.C. meetings but are shut down quickly and retaliated against for doing so. In a blind attempt to produce for the corporate machine that is AutoZone, the leadership team has marginalized, demotivated, alienated and divided the hourly staff.

Frustrated to no end, I decided to send a email to the CEO, the corporate offices, management & the hourly staff to express my concerns...

Exposing the Truth in One Email

Dear Mr. William C. Rhodes III,

In 1985, Doc Crain, the first AutoZone store manager, coined the term WITTDTJR, which stands for "What it takes to do the job right." With the increasing focus on income inequality in the United States. AutoZone, which is the nations largest automotive retailer has an opportunity to be at the forefront of helping to change the tone and by setting the bar, leading by example, and showing the other large corporations that it is very possible to maintain a profitable company that not only looks out for its consumers and shareholders, but its employees as well and to ultimately do the job right.

This fiscal year approaching its third quarter, AutoZone has profits of $1.1 billion dollars, assets worth 7.9 billion,
and 2015 sales totaling $9.8 billion dollars. These are very impressive numbers, and is obvious evidence that AutoZone is the most profitable automotive parts supplier and retailer in the nation, which is what we strive for. So, why not take some of this outstanding profit and invest in the invaluable employees that make it the powerhouse that it is in its market.

At our AutoZone D.C. 55 in Terrell, Texas, the flagship of the distribution centers in the network, my fellow employees work 6 days a week, 12+ hours a day with one day a week to spend with family or to handle personal business. We have been denied cross-training in various departments, denied production bonuses, denied cost of living increases and the possibility to be promoted within is stagnated with politics and red tape governed by management. An employees value is based solely on their production quotas and never their overall contribution to the team.

A glass ceiling has been placed on our pay increases and if we dare question any decision, criticize or speak out on ANY issues or concerns during our monthly D.C. meeting, we are retaliated against with disciplinary action which borderlines harassment. This is not the type of job growth and job creation promised to the city of Terrell by AutoZone 10+ years ago, all relating to a high turn-over rate and a low morale among the entire staff. This is not the AutoZone that we take honor and pride in working for everyday and we have to do better. AutoZone has to honor its commitments not only to its customers or shareholders, but also its employees. Period.

Sure, the company provides while not great, some pretty good benefits, as well as discretionary profit sharing for those who partake in our 401k program. While the benefits are nice, the profit sharing through the 401k only goes to make the company itself and its shareholders more profitable, and does not really boost the income of the thousands of us here every day making this company the best in the automotive retail industry. When any company is making morally irresponsible decisions, it is their employees moral obligation to stop it, challenge it and change it, as soon as possible.

Last year, you as the acting C.E.O. of AutoZone pulled in over $13 million dollars in documented income compensation, more than most of the employees will see in our lifetimes. It is understood that your position carries a lot of weight and responsibility; however, with a base salary of $1 million dollars, bonuses equating to $2 million and $10 million in stock earnings, your income alone is one of the main arguments of income inequality. Where the vast majority, the undeniable profit drivers, with the exception of upper management positions barely make enough to live comfortably on their own, the distribution of income in this company is no better than that of the other big players in the corporate world.

But being crowned the best has always meant being held to a higher standard of moral obligation as a company. And no great company has ever succeeded without securing its most valuable asset, its employees. My estimate is that AutoZone has roughly 70,000+ employees. My proposal is take $700 million dollars, just a small fraction of what AutoZone pulls in annually, and raise every employees annual salary by $10,000 dollars. This equates to an hourly raise of about $4.80 per hour. Think of the positive publicity in a time of extreme consumer skepticism towards American corporations.

We do not understand how it is acceptable for corporations to claim that they pay salaries at a market rate or above the federal minimum. When nowhere else in American society is the minimum, acceptable or average, considered something to be proud of. But by doing this, AutoZone will restore the broken faith within our company, not only help to make its employees, their families, more happy, productive, and financially stable. It will also show the rest of the United States, if not the world that, yes big corporations care for the well being of their staff other than philanthropic endeavors.

P.S. - To all of my fellow team members who receive a copy of this email. Though AutoZone does not allow the formation of unions, this does not mean we cannot stand united. Each and every one of us plays an integral part in the success of this company. It is time that we ask, no, it is time that we demand to be rightfully compensated for the hard work that we accomplish, and for the great part we all have played in the success of this company. There are many of us out there who come to work every day and give it our all, yet, we struggle to make ends meet, struggle to get proper training and promotions, struggle with the unacceptable accepted politics within our company, while our peers in upper management and company executives reap the majority of the rewards.

One of the beliefs of corporate business is that the employees opinions do not matter. Well they do! This email has been sent to hundreds of thousands AutoZone employees, (as many as I could cc from the outlook global address book). I speak not for myself but for those without a voice... those willing to stand up for what is right... their right to be treated fairly, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, not just for some, but for all.

With the warmest of regards,

Craig Holman

AutoZone D.C. 55

The Aftermath

The email now sent, the following day I was called into the office and fired for questioning the authority of the management team. Luckily I had found a new job and was prepared for that action from the same leadership team that has bullied and/or abused their authority from day one. My concern was and is for the hundreds of employees who spend countless hours and dedicate their lives helping to build an empire that does not value them, does not protect them, does not defend them and does not give them a real tangible opportunity to grow. I encourage workers to take a stand and speak out against this negative climate that has become the most accepted corporate practice of marginalizing American workers in the name of profits.

Companies like AutoZone will hide behind the federal regulated minimum set standards and do nothing more for their employees other than selling employees a dream of opportunity. These large corporations are in essence, opportunists. Their is no legal obligation, no moral obligation, no ethical obligation. Their is only the obligation to manipulate & capitalize on everyone and at everyone's expense and at the cost of the people.

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