''WHAT'S happened is that shareholders interest have squeezed out other stakeholders,'' said Arthur C. Martinez, who ran Sears during the 1980s and was credited with a turnaround.

''The mantra is shareholders above all else.''

Decades ago, he said, ''the people who produced or sold the product were more central than the people in the corporate suite. There was a different mind-set and it's linked to the larger issue of income inequality.''

Not only was Sears program generous, it was also remarkably egalitarian. Contributions were based on years of service, not rank, and the largest serving workers received nearly $3 for every dollar they contributed.

The company phased out the profit sharing plan beginning in the 1970s. This month after years of lackluster attempts at revival, the retailer filed for bankruptcy protection.

Sears was hardly alone in corporate America, said Professor Joseph R Blasi, who directs Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing.

Companies like Procter & Gamble, S.C.Johnson, Hallmark Cards and the U.S.Steel all embraced profit-sharing and were part of corporate movement to encourage the practice, he said.

Among some leading executives in the early to mid-20th century, Professor Blasi said. ''there was a notion that wages were not enough and workers had a right to share the fruits of their labor.''

In the executive suite, however, profit-sharing still flourishes. While 68 percent of workers who earn more than $75,000 benefit from it, only 20 percent of workers earning less than $30,000 do, according to Professor Blasi.

The decline of profit-sharing for the latter group has accelerated in recent years,with the median annual grant falling to $300 in 2014 from $921 in 2002.

These are Amazon employees who had a lot of stock. Four out of the top five executives earned less than $175,000 each in annual salary in the last three years, but got tens of millions of dollars in stock.

By current standards, Amazon is generous. In addition to retirement funds, full-time employees receive medical insurance and a week of paid vacation their first year.

Fifty years ago, sears provided all that plus a much larger annual retirement contribution. While the typical Amazon employee receives $680 from the company in retirement fund, the average

Sears workers got the present day equivalent of $2,744. Dividends on accumulated stock could add thousands annually.

The Sears approach was not without flaws. By putting much of its assets into company stock, it made workers even more exposed to their employer's fate.

It also favored men over women, who lost out when they took time off or left earlier than male colleagues, according to Sanford Jacoby, a professor of management and public policy at University of California, Los Angeles.

If Amazon's 575,000 total employees owned the same proportion of their employer's stock as the Sears workers did in the 1950s, they would each own shares worth $381,000.

Until last year, Amazon has been awarding two shares a year to warehouse employees, worth about $3,500 at the current price. The loss of those grants will prevent employees from directly partaking in one of the greatest examples of wealth creation.

To make up for the lost stock grants, Amazon has provided raises of at least $1.25 an hour to employees who had been earning over $15 plus cash bonuses at five, 10, 15 and 20 years of employment.

Employees can put retirement fund contributions into Amazon shares.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Employees and Ownership, continues.


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