Costco vs. Sam’s Club: Busting the G.J. Chamber’s Minimum Wage Myths

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-11-38-08-amColorado’s Amendment 70, if it passes this November, will gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $12.00 an hour by 2020. Some people wonder, if we pay people a higher minimum wage, where will the money come from?

The money comes from either a businesses’ profits, or its debts. But raising the minimum wage doesn’t necessarily mean customers will pay higher prices for goods and services. To the contrary, a number of real-life examples show that rock-bottom pay and benefits don’t necessarily translate into lower prices. In fact, stingy wages often prove even more costly.

Low wages are associated with higher employee turnover, and the lower the wage the higher the turnover. Some fast-food chains, for example, have a 100 percent annual employee turnover. This can cut into employers’ bottom line by increasing hiring and training costs. Data from places where the minimum wage has already been raised show that higher wages consistently lead to greater employee retention, higher employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity, less turnover, and lower training and hiring costs for employers. Higher wages also result in less employee theft, where low-paid employees steal food and clothing to help themselves and their families get by. This all translates to sizable savings for employers.

Big, well-known, successful chains like Costco, Trader Joe’s and QuikTrip Convenience Stores are known for investing heavily in their employees, but at the same time they have some of the lowest prices in the country for their goods. Why? Because the financial benefits these companies realize from providing their employees with decent wages and benefits have been more than balanced out by what they experienced in lower employee turnover, lower hiring and training costs, greater employee productivity, satisfaction, loyalty and sales.

The Costco vs. Sam’s Club Example

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Erc Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

NUTTY AS A FRUITCAKE- Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber cites a statistic generated by “Eric Fruits,” an out-of-state, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home, while ignoring the conclusion of over 600 professional economists, including 7 Nobel Prize winners, who say increasing the minimum wage has little or no negative effect on employment.

Take for example Costco vs. Sam’s Club, which is owned by Wal-mart.

Costco’s employees earn an average of $17/hour. Eighty-two percent of Costco employees are covered with health insurance, and they pay just 8 percent of their health insurance premiums. Ninety-one percent of Costco employees have retirement plans, and the company pays about $1,330 annually towards each employee’s retirement plan. At Sam’s Club, the average wage is about $10.00 per hour, fewer than half of Sam’s employees have health insurance, and those who do pay 33 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Costco’s operating costs are obviously higher than Sam’s Club’s, but Costco’s employee turnover rate is just 17 percent overall, and drops to only 6 percent after a year of employment. Costco’s attractive pay and benefits package is specifically aimed at discouraging quitting. Sam’s Club’s turnover rate is about 44 percent annually, so they are losing over twice as many employees yearly as Costco, and incur greater costs for hiring and training new employees on an ongoing basis. A Costco employee generates about twice the amount of profit as a Sam’s Club employee, and Costco also enjoys one of the lowest employee theft rates in the industry. Costco’s extremely loyal and efficient workforce generates billions of dollars more in sales each year than Sam’s Club’s workforce, and Costco does it with 38% fewer employees than Sam’s.

What’s more, in 2013 Costco had an 8% growth rate in sales while WalMart/Sam’s Clubs saw only a 1.2% rise in sales.

Both chains have low prices, but one chain is more efficient and successful, with a more stable, more satisfied workforce. Despite it’s extraordinarily high wages and benefits for employees, investors have called Costco “unstoppable” and “Amazon-proof.”

The Grand Junction Chamber wants people to think that paying workers starvation wages is the only way businesses here can function. That is not the case.

Members of the Grand Junction Chamber believe paying workers starvation wages is the only way western slope businesses can function. That is clearly not the case.

This proves that a race to the bottom isn’t the only way to operate a business, as the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce would have us believe. Being stingy towards employees is not the best business model, and is often a less efficient one.

As it is with everything, you get what you pay for when it comes to your workforce.

Well-compensated workers pay sizable financial benefits to employers through increased loyalty, efficiency and longevity. This can also lead to a boost business. Experienced employees are more knowledgeable and create a bigger draw for customers. They answer questions knowledgeably and accurately, help customers locate merchandise more easily and generally make the shopping experience smoother and easier. This in turn draws a larger and more loyal customer base.

Paying low wages is a choice, not an economic necessity.

Clearly businesses can pay employees decent wages and still thrive.

So don’t be afraid of an increase in Colorado’s minimum wage. Beyond the benefits noted above, a higher minimum wage will put more money into the pockets of people who will spend it locally, which will further boost the western slope’s economy.

Decades of western slope employers offering rock-bottom wages so far have not succeeded in changing our area’s persistently downward-spiraling economy. The lessons that can be learned from highly successful chains like Costco, Trader Joe’s, QuikTrip and others show that a decent increase in the minimum wage could be just the shot in the arm western Colorado needs.

G.J. Chamber Runs TV Ads Opposing Increase in Colorado’s Minimum Wage

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber quotes a statistic by Erc Fruits, a freelance, pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon, producing reports that meet the needs of his paymasters

Diane Schwenke of the Grand Junction Chamber cites a statistic produced by “Eric Fruits,” a pay-for-play economic consultant who works out of his home in Portland, Oregon producing economic reports that bolster the positions of his big-business paymasters. Fruits’ claim directly contradicts the U.S. Department of Labor regarding the actual effects of increases in the minimum wage.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke has been appearing on TV in ads opposing Amendment 70, which would increase in Colorado’s minimum wage to $12 and hour by 2020. The western slope has among the lowest per capita income in the state (pdf), and among the highest rates of homelessness, poverty, suicide and hunger. The ads reinforce the chamber’s longstanding reputation of opposing the best interests of area workers and their families, and continues its long-standing record of lobbying to keep area wages extraordinarily low compared to the rest of the state. The ads also reinforce the chamber’s image as an elite club that lobbies for wealthy business owners and out-of-state member corporations, while neglecting the needs of the rest of the community.


Turnout Low at Trump Junior Event

Photo taken inside the Mahindra Arena at the Mesa County Fairgrounds during the Donald Trump Junior rally shows plenty of empty seats.

Photo taken at the Donald Trump Junior rally inside the Mahindra Arena at the Mesa County Fairgrounds when it was in full swing shows plenty of empty seats.

KKCO reported on tonight’s news that “thousands” of people turned out for Donald Trump Junior’s rally at the Mesa County Fairgrounds this evening, but an observer inside the Mahindra Arena took a photograph of the rally that showed barely over half the seats filled. People inside the scene estimated about 200 people in attendance, a low figure given the county’s large Republican majority. KKCO later revised their estimate on their website to “nearly a thousand” supporters, but according to photographic evidence, they’re still far off the mark. One African American protester who went into the event said he was the only person of color in attendance at the rally, yet in his talk Trump Junior reportedly praised all the “diversity” he said he saw in the crowd at the arena.

Protesters hold signs outside the TrumpJ unior rally

Protesters hold signs outside the Trump Junior rally in Grand Junction

Donald Trump Jr. to Appear in Grand Junction


Donald Trump Jr. poses with an elephant he killed. He holds the hacked-off tail of the elephant in his left hand.


Donald Trump’s sons pose with a leopard they killed on a trophy hunt.

Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. Donald Trump Jr. will appear in Grand Junction at the Mesa County Fairgrounds, nominally to talk to sportsmen.

Donald Jr. likes to kill rare and endangered animals in expensive trophy hunts overseas. He is supposed to be speaking about “wildlife conservation.”

Anyone who can stand to be in the presence of a human being like this, or who can manage to do it without losing their stomach, is invited to attend.


Why Average People Shouldn’t Listen to the Grand Junction Area Chamber

chamberIt’s election time again, and soon the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce will issue it’s “2016 Voter Guide” in an attempt to try and influence how people in Mesa County vote on ballot measures and local elected offices.

If you’re an average, hard-working working citizen in Mesa County, there is only one thing you need to know about the chamber’s voter guide: ignore it.


Because the chamber doesn’t represent Mesa County’s working population. It exists solely to promote the financial interests of the few Mesa County businesses who pay its dues, and nothing more. What’s more, most businesses oppose measures aimed at helping workers and their families, so the chamber reflexively opposes any ballot measures that would benefit the thousands of workers and residents who spend money locally and really keep this area humming.

Don’t Be Fooled: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Now a Religious Oath, is Always Optional


The text of the original Pledge of Allegiance, as it existed until 1953. In 1954, Congress added the words “under God” to it, effectively changing it from a purely patriotic statement into a religious statement.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem has spurred debate over coerced and often perfunctory recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

In reaction to the September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, people started reciting the Pledge more frequently, on more occasions and in more venues than ever before. Many U.S. public schools starting requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. Mesa County’s District 51’s student handbook (pdf, at page 35) says students get an “opportunity” and have the “right” to say the pledge, but it never expressly says in a neutral manner that students also have a legal right not to say it. Rather, the manual practically sneers at students who choose not to say the pledge by using language that infers such students are likely to be disruptive and disrespectful in doing so:

“If you feel, based on personal convictions or religious beliefs, that you do not want to recite the Pledge or salute the flag, we ask you to remain respectfully silent, not interfering with the
rights of others to recite the Pledge and salute the flag.”

WCAF Hoping to Run 2016 Winter Holiday Billboard

The billboard WCAF hopes to run this December in Grand Junction. To donate to help make this board happen, go to and click on "Donate."

WCAF members hope to run this billboard in December in Grand Junction. To donate to help make this billboard a reality, go to and click on “Donate.”

Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers, the western slope’s longest-established secular advocacy group, is hoping (NOT praying) to run a winter solstice billboard on Grand Junction’s I-70 Business Loop this holiday season. The group voted unanimously to gather enough funds to make the board happen. They need only $265 to run it for one week, and they hope to run the board from December 18-24, 2016. One donor has already pledged $100 to make it happen, so the group is quickly moving towards making its goal a reality.

WCAF was established in 2007, and will be ten years old next February. The group now has hundreds of Facebook followers.

People wanting to donate towards the billboard can go to WCAF’s “Donate” page and donate through PayPal. There is no minimum donation, all donations are tax deductible and 100% of donations go to WCAF. You can use a credit or debit card, and you don’t need a PayPal account to donate.

What’s REALLY Up With the Grand Valley Drainage District’s New Fee?

Recent flooding at First and Grand in Grand Junction, after 1/2 inch of rain fell in an hour

Flooding at the intersection of First and Grand in Grand Junction, after just 1/2 inch of rain fell in one hour in a summer 2016 rain storm

Grand Valley residents were hit this year with an additional $36 annual fee to help fund improvements within the Grand Valley Drainage District. But why, and why so out of the blue?

The fee came as a surprise to homeowners because the Drainage District sent notices of the fee only to business owners in an effort to try to save their already-scarce funds. The District regrets this now and they believe they should have done more outreach to residents about the fee, no matter the cost.

That said, many of the problems leading up to this extra fee being necessary are traceable to the actions of the Mesa County Commissioners.

An Answer to City Market’s Huge Amount of Food Waste

San Francisco has successfully addressed the problem of excessive food waste from restaurants and grocery stores — of the same type  that we are still seeing here in Grand Junction, specifically with City Market’s tremendous waste of food daily from its hot delis.

A nonprofit organization called Food Runners collects extra hot food from markets and restaurants left over at closing time, and brings it to local foster homes, food pantries and homeless shelters where it feeds hungry people and is greatly appreciated. It’s simple, and there is no liability for the providers of the food.

Why can’t this happen here?

The New Graff Dairy: A Shining New Addition to Town

Graff Dairy 2.0 - worth a trip across town

Graff Dairy 2.0 – worth a trip across town

Graff Dairy, a longtime fixture in town at 581 29 Road, has gotten a complete makeover and is now a fantastic place to stop to get your espresso and ice cream fix.

Graff Dairy 2.0 is clean, spacious and bright, with tables and umbrellas on a nice front lawn where you can sit to eat your ice cream. It also now has a very welcome more sophisticated edge that this town really needs. For example, they offer free water flavored with chunks of fresh watermelon and sprigs of rosemary — a nice flair. Some local stories have reported that their ice cream is the same as it used to be, but it really seems much better than that. The old Graff ice cream seemed little better than ice milk, but the new Graff ice cream seems richer and more flavorful, like it has a higher butterfat content than it used to.