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Demise of Sears Canada Should Be Catalyst for Change


#1

Demise of Sears Canada Should Be Catalyst for Change

Linda McQuaig

We’re by no means helpless to prevent such fiascos. We need to change our corporate laws so those controlling corporations can be held personally liable for money owed to their employees.

The downfall of Sears Canada seems tragic and unnecessary, and the devastating blow to its employees should not have been allowed to happen.

#2

We are talking about a Canadian corporation, so I defer to someone better acquainted with Canadian law…

Supposition: That the state of Sears Canada’s pension has been disclosed each year for the past several decades. That people have known about these shortfalls for years.
Question: If there is a shortfall in pension funding, or in severance-insurance, shouldn’t the law require that those shortfalls be made up before dividends can be paid?

Extra thought: The same question should apply to public entities, like the city police department. Here in the USA there are too many states such as Illinois that have grossly underfunded their public pensions. Shouldn’t they be required to make up those shortfalls, or go bankrupt, before spending any other money?


#3

“The Sears Canada tale is particularly epic, with a loyal workforce and a cartoon capitalist in Eddie Lampert — a hedge fund manager who reportedly owns three lavish homes and 288-foot megayacht, believed to be among the world’s biggest. (Who would have guessed?)”

Posted yesterday. Posting again, because . . . it’s ALL obvious:

Posted before. Posting again, because . . . its MESSAGE is still current:


#4

The demise of giant retailers like Sears can be attributed in part to the competition of internet shopping - Amazon, Ebay, etc. Another form of giant retail store that mirrors internet shopping is that of Costco and Walmart supercenters which likewise undermine local retail stores. The main distinction I make is how much fuel is spent transporting purchased commodities. Costco and Walmart customers drive 5x to 10x as far from home and neighborhood retail for the discount. Delivery of internet retail goods via FedEx or UPS likewise increases the amount of fuel spent for delivery. When a product delivered via UPS is unacceptable, the return increases fuel spent.

Costco and Amazon could act as (non-retail) distribution centers delivering the same goods to local retailers and reduce fuel spent by 5x to 10x less. Were the price of fuel to reflect its true cost and impact, Sears could not only compete, but could offer customers the advantage of seeing and judging the product before purchasing. Sears as anchors stores of indoor shopping malls support the other smaller stores. Amazon is making a huge mistake relying on the spurious fictional technology of self-driving cars and trucks to reduce the costs of fuel and truck driver wages: self-driving cars and truck transport is a ruse, an “impossible” technology (therefore fraud), a distraction from actual solutions to societal ills related to fuel/energy consumption and waste, pollution, traffic, oil wars, race baiting to incite wars, oligarchy, plutocracy, class warfare.


#6

Sounds good, at first glance but in our current economic environment, that would mean petting pensions against school funding and other social spending. I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. And fully fund for how long? I believe Congress required the Post Office to fully fund their pension plan for 75 years and this impossible task has had serious consequences for, not only postal service, but for the continuation of the postal service itself.


#7

hmmm, I see it as a rapacious beast that’s brings out the worst in humans and is destroying the planet…


#8

There is a model that can be expanded to give every American - and Canadian - a guaranteed, defined benefit pension. It would be based on the current U. S. Railroad Retirement model, which is a two-tiered plan, with both the Social Security and company pension functions built in. It is totally separate from the Social Security system, although if a worker does not have enough credits in either they are blended together when they retire. This system guarantees the worker’s pension if they change railroads, if they are laid-off or fired for cause, and if the employer goes bankrupt or is the subject of a hostile take-over. Railroaders in the U. S. cannot lose the money they have put in this plan, and there is no good reason the principle cannot be extended to the rest of the U. S. population, other than right-wing ideology and greed. Every American worker, let me re-emphasize that, EVERY AMERICAN WORKER could be covered by extending this model to the rest of our work force, replacing, or enhancing Social Security to do it. It can be done. You can have a government administered, defined benefit pension that is totally portable, and can never be taken away from you, either for “cause” or the failure of an employer. It would pay you enough to live a decent retirement (especially if we can get a living wage enacted). It would cost both employees and employers more in payroll taxes up front, like Railroad Retirement does, but it would end needless elder poverty on the back end. We need to develop the will to do this.


#9

Apple, Google, and cars were all invented in somebody’s basement or garage. The corporation was only a tool for distribution. The innovation would have happened with or without the corporate structure, because people innovate, corporations are simply a piece of paper. They often stifle innovation: the electric car (back in the 70’s?) comes to mind. They bury life altering data: Exxon and climate change, Dow and Monsanto with toxic chemicals for the home, yard, and farm… They notoriously underpay their workers, and they donate huge sums of money to candidates who will do their bidding when elected. More and more our modern comforts are prison bars keeping us locked out of life-affirming behavior and locked into the acquisition of ever more and “better” stuff. That said, the author is not calling for the end of the corporation. IMO, she should be calling for an end to corporate constitutional rights intended for human beings.

On another note:

No, I’m not advocating the overthrow of capitalism,

I am.


#10

Way back when Walmart made K-Mart irrelevant, K-Mart management realized that they were never going to win in the retail space. They basically turned to a business plan of slowly liquidating the real estate to generate cash flow, and keep paying themselves hefty salaries. As the brick and mortar holdings were extensive this could go on for quite some time. The stock price fell, but didn’t go to zero because there was still cash flow, although it came from cannibalizing the company. When Sears’ stock price fell along with other retailers, K-Mart management realized that the parts were worth much more than the stock price and bought Sears to add to their inventory of stuff they could continue to liquidate for decades to come. From the moment that K-mart bought Sears its demise as a viable business was assured.

If someone wants to do this with a private company, that’s one thing. But to be allowed to do this to a publicly held corporation should be quite another.


#11

Wonderful article. Deftly lays it out as it is, and as it could/should be.
The corporatist way of life/death will go the way of the dinosaurs. Indeed, we are now, as a species, moving beyond the “Age of Thought,” which has dominated life on this planet for the last million years. Rather than combat the corporation (fruitless since they are firmly in control) we are in the process of evolving beyond the point where corporations have a point.


#12

Singer, the sewing machine company has an interesting history as one of the first corporations. It is far easier to see the impact on society and corporations alike. It survives but has been merged into other industry and armaments.


#13

I recall learning that one of the reasons to buy stock in Sears Canada was that their locations were owned by the corporation and were valuable real estate. Will that situation benefit only Lampert?


#14

This push to buy everything on line is manufactured by the wealthy----it is in the interest of the wealthy to make this work-so they can live inside their walls and don’t have to interact with the common people.


#15

Yes - a good common sense idea.

I think we are headed that way in many parts of the world (I am Canadian) - with talk and some action on guaranteed annual incomes and the like.

I am reading Yanis Varoufakis new book on his part in the Greek Crisis “Adults in the Room”, which I think you would get a lot out of.

lobo4justice mentions some good points - and advocates for the abolition of capitalism, I take it ?

Here is a book I read a long time ago which is still entirely relevant.

The author, Joel Bakan, is a Canadian, a professor of law if memory serves. Here is a comment on the book, followed by a link to the book itself:

Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-top-50-sustainability-books
One of Cambridge Sustainability’s Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.


#16

My main point was accounting for the full cost and impact of transport. Yes, the wealthy exploit the poor for labor and keep everyone dependent upon a monopolistic supply of commodities for which they’ll pay an undue high price. That’s how the filthy rich get rich. But to address environmental degradation by reducing the use of both fossil fuels and long-distance transport, we reduce their oppressive influence.