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5 successful corporations show what can happen when employees are paid a living wage.

These companies are great places to work — and that doesn't hurt their bottomline.

5 successful corporations show what can happen when employees are paid a living wage.
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Civic Ventures

We've heard this idea many times: industries must pay workers a minimum wage to keep their prices low and profits high.

The argument goes that if companies are required to pay employees more, there will be fewer jobs available or prices will have to go up.

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But is that true?

A 2016 National Employment Law Project study looked at job growth trends every time the federal minimum wage increased (since it was first established in 1938). It found no correlation between federal minimum wage increases and lower employment levels.

Instead, the data suggests that employment actually increased about 68% of the time in the year after a minimum wage increase.

This is because when companies increase wages, workers spend their additional earnings, increasing demand. This, in turn increases business, creating jobs and innovation.

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Luckily, many companies are choosing to do better by their employees — not only becoming great places to work but also proving this "trickle-down" theory of business wrong:

1. In-N-Out

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In-N-Out has been named one of Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work, which is determined by employee ratings. This isn’t the first time the chain has been praised for being a great place to work; year after year, it ranks high on Glassdoor’s rankings.

The average In-N-Out associate makes around $12 an hour according to Glassdoor, which is above the national minimum wage of $7.25. The company is also known for promoting managers from within, creating job growth opportunities for its employees, and according to the OC Register, managers are paid well above the national average for restaurants.

The company's benefits include retirement accounts, health plans, and three weeks' vacation a year for those who have worked for the company more than six years. This fast food organization is also renowned for prioritizing work-life balance and a healthy work culture. Managers who meet their goals even get the additional perk of an all-expenses-paid trip abroad, according to Thrillist.

Photo via iStock.

In-N-Out demonstrates how it's possible to operate a profitable, popular food chain without mistreating employees or relying on the trickle-down minimum wage myth.

2. Costco

Costco takes care of its employees and pays a living wage, which just this past March, rose again. The company’s entry-level pay is now $13 an hour for new and current employees, up from $11.50.  And most of Costco’s employees receive health benefits and pension plans.

Higher-paid workers at Costco — who make around $22.50 an hour — are also reported to be receiving a raise of about 2.5% this year.

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Keeping its employees happy is important to Costco. “We think this will help, and it’s important to do,” Costco CFO Richard Galanti told CNN Money. “We want to be the premium at all levels.”

The wage increases don’t seem to be hurting business either. Costco is the second largest U.S. retailer — second only to Walmart, which also reportedly raised wages this past year for hourly workers. In addition, in March, the company reported an overall increase in cardholders from 82.7 million to 84 million — showing that keeping employees happy can make customers happy too.

3. Trader Joe’s

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This popular grocery store also treats its workers with respect and fairness. While Trader Joe's is somewhat secretive about the way it runs its business, it is clear that the company goes out of its way to foster loyalty among its employees by making it a good working environment. They offer a fair wage (starting salaries are around $13 an hour), along with health and vacation benefits and relatively flexible schedules.

Turnover at Trader Joe's is around 4% yearly, according to a study published in a Pepperdine University business journal — which is substantially below that of traditional supermarkets. This means that the company doesn’t have to as much waste time and money training new employees and can invest more in the ones it already has.

4. Starbucks

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Offering a strong benefit package is an example of what this coffee giant means when it refers to its employees as “partners.” Starbucks offers bonuses, 401(k) matching, discounted stock purchase options, adoption assistance, college tuition reimbursement, health coverage for families, and of course, free coffee.

What makes its benefits packages even better though is that you don’t have to be a full-time employee to receive it — part-time employees that work at least 20 hours a week can get the benefits too. And, since Starbucks started offering its college tuition reimbursement program, its employee retention rate has improved, according to The Atlantic.

5. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s gets a gold star when it comes to taking care of its employees. The ice cream company pays all its full-time workers a livable wage — $16.92 in 2015 — that is more than double the federal minimum wage. It also recalculates this livable wage every year to make sure it is keeping up with the actual cost of living, factoring in things like food, housing, and fuel costs.

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Full-time employees also get health benefits, along with a bunch of other neat perks too, including a dog-friendly office (what's better than taking your furry friend to the office?), an employee nap room, a massage room, and lots of free ice cream (three pints per person, per day, to be precise).

None of these policies have held Ben & Jerry’s back like trickle-down economics says it should. “We outsell the overall U.S. ice cream market and profits are at the top end of the industry,” wrote board member Jeff Furman in an op-ed in Fortune. “Globally, we operate in more than 30 countries.”

By investing in their employees, these companies are reaping the benefits — turnover is down, productivity is up, and workers are loyal, motivated, and proud of their work.

Image via iStock.

And these companies have done all this while still keeping customers happy and building their businesses.

These five corporations are not only liked by their employees, but they are also shining examples of what can happen when we start to question the myth that low wages are the only way for companies to thrive.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

It's one thing to see a little kid skateboarding. It's another to see a stereotype-defying little girl skateboarding. And it's entirely another to see Paige Tobin.

Paige is a 6-year-old skateboarding wonder from Australia. A recent video of her dropping into a 12-foot bowl on her has gone viral, both for the feat itself and for the style with which she does it. Decked out in a pink party dress, a leopard-print helmet, and rainbow socks, she looks nothing like you'd expect a skater dropping into a 12-foot bowl to look. And yet, here she is, blowing people's minds all over the place.

For those who may not fully appreciate the impressiveness of this feat, here's some perspective. My adrenaline junkie brother, who has been skateboarding since childhood and who races down rugged mountain faces on a bike for fun, shared this video and commented, "If I dropped in to a bowl twice as deep as my age it would be my first and last time doing so...this fearless kid has a bright future!"

It's scarier than it looks, and it looks pretty darn scary.

Paige doesn't always dress like a princess when she skates, not that it matters. Her talent and skill with the board are what gets people's attention. (The rainbow socks are kind of her signature, however.)

Her Instagram feed is filled with photos and videos of her skateboarding and surfing, and the body coordination she's gained at such a young age is truly something.

Here she was at three years old:

And here she is at age four:


So, if she dropped into a 6-foot bowl at age three and a 12-foot bowl at age six—is there such a thing as an 18-foot bowl for her to tackle when she's nine?

Paige clearly enjoys skating and has high ambitions in the skating world. "I want to go to the Olympics, and I want to be a pro skater," she told Power of Positivity when she was five. She already seems to be well on her way toward that goal.

How did she get so good? Well, Paige's mom gave her a skateboard when she wasn't even preschool age yet, and she loved it. Her mom got her lessons, and she's spent the past three years skating almost daily. She practices at local skate parks and competes in local competitions.

She also naturally has her fair share of spills, some of which you can see on her Instagram channel. Falling is part of the sport—you can't learn if you don't fall. Conquering the fear of falling is the key, and the thing that's hardest for most people to get over.

Perhaps Paige started too young to let fear override her desire to skate. Perhaps she's been taught to manage her fears, or maybe she's just naturally less afraid than other people. Or maybe there's something magical about the rainbow socks. Whatever it is, it's clear that this girl doesn't let fear get in the way of her doing what she wants to do. An admirable quality in anyone, but particularly striking to see in someone so young.

Way to go, Paige. Your perseverance and courage are inspiring, as is your unique fashion sense. Can't wait to see what you do next.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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