Dark discrepancies of the U.S. dollar: How corporate America manipulates the lower class


State Farm, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

An aerial view of Mayfield, Kentucky on December 12 following a destructive tornado.

By Brady Hunter, Pleasant Valley High School - IA

Modern-day American capitalism has outperformed pre-emergent societal expectations in the U.S. over the span of a decade with the help of one extrinsically driven motive: greed. 

On Friday, Dec. 10, an intense, long-tracked tornado migrated through Western Kentucky, causing catastrophic damage to a handful of towns across the state. 

Signs of a destructive tornado were reported prior to the event while factory workers at Mayfield Consumer Products begged their managers to let them leave early as they feared for their safety.

Per NBC News, “[a]s a catastrophic tornado approached the city Friday, employees of a candle factory — which would later be destroyed — heard the warning sirens and wanted to leave the building. But at least five workers said supervisors warned employees that they would be fired if they left their shifts early.” 

Consequently, employees took shelter in the factory and remained working.                                

Because workers were trying to meet dire holiday demands, the management staff of Mayfield’s factory did not find a tornado taking the lives of 80+ Kentucky residents a clear enough indication of danger to send workers home safely.

Regardless of variance between workplace protocol and factory workers, this tragedy outlines the flaws in America’s capitalist-driven business model. 

Money, money and more money. 

Prior to the incident, at least five employees expressed concerns about working conditions to management, which were quickly shot down.

Attempting to reach consumer satisfaction earlier in the week, Mayfield implemented “24/7”-like hours in part to meet Christmastime candle demand. 

Factory and production work tends to pay in the lower percentile of employees in America, with $35,000 being the annual salary for a lead production worker in Mayfield. Taking advantage of workers toward the bottom of America’s socioeconomic hierarchy is unjust. 

Mayfield is notorious for workplace violations, leading to an unsafe work environment in the past as well. Investigative reporter Paul Vasan went into detail on past scandals within the factory.“During a 2019 investigation, federal regulators found 12 violations and fined the company $16,350. Six of those violations were listed as “serious” and included defects in electrical protective equipment, issues with handling equipment and problems with exit routes,” Vasan stated. 

On top of these violations, Vasan pointed out that the building lacked one of the most important attributes of a tornado-proof facility: a basement. 

Meeting consumer demand was the top priority for Mayfield management staff Friday, trumping employee safety. Not only does this represent the lack of ethics in business, but it has also led to an increase in employee turnover in America – no wonder job satisfaction in America is reaching an all-time low.

An even bigger issue with the situation is Mayfield’s response to the natural disaster. Not showing an ounce of grief for the eight deceased factory workers Friday night, company spokesperson Bob Ferguson defended the company’s side of the story. “‘It’s absolutely untrue. We’ve had a policy in place since COVID began. Employees can leave any time they want to leave and they can come back the next day,’” Ferguson explained. 

With a variety of factory employees voicing their arguments in opposition to Ferguson, it is clear that the employees are better supported, having experienced the tornado firsthand. The fact that Ferguson’s priority was to defend Mayfield drives the idea of the American business model surrounding greed full circle.

Media and news coverage platforms recently uncovered the true predicament instilled in corporate American businesses. Why should members of the lower class in society get treated with little to no respect in workplace settings? 

PV senior Justin Ancelet describes the immorality of corporate management corruption in America. 

“It is extremely undermining,” he explained. “Seeing management treat members of the lower class with such authoritative dissonance, we need to rethink how American corporations are run,” Ancelet depicted. 

As businesses around the nation continue to weaponize their power as leaders, mistreating America’s lower class, we may begin to see more than just verbal complaints from Americans as corporations continue their corruption.

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on December 20, 2021.