Lowe’s roughly 300,000 employees are “without question” the home-improvement chain’s “greatest asset,” according to their boss, CEO Marvin Ellison. He offered the shout-out at the retailer’s annual shareholder meeting in May, crediting a 15% boost in the company’s quarterly dividends to his workers’ efforts.
Yet when thousands of those workers recently got the boot, they received no notice and no severance. Instead, Lowe’s — a profitable company that spends billions buying back its own stock — offered the equivalent of two weeks “transition” pay to full-time workers, some with the company more than a decade. Laid-off workers were also invited to re-apply for jobs at Lowe’s, though not necessarily for the the same pay.
The sudden job losses are hitting some workers hard. “I’m behind in my house note and my property taxes,” said Patricia Wilkerson, 59, of Dayton, Texas, who said she got no notice before losing her part-time, seasonal position at Lowe’s and is receiving no severance. “Corporations are stretching people trying to get more with less.”
Wilkerson was speaking from a hospital where she said she was accompanying her grandson for treatment for cystic fibrosis. Hurricane Harvey inundated her home with foot-high water for three days — not having flood insurance, she’s since spent her life savings on repairs.
Although major retailers from Walmart to Amazon have increased their minimum pay to attract and retain workers, Lowe’s is seemingly bucking the trend. In Wilkerson’s case, who has been laid off twice by Lowe’s, she was most recently making less than she had more than a decade before as a seasonal worker in a company garden center. When she first joined Lowe’s in a similar position in 2003, she made $13 per hour, rising to $23.58 when became a department manager — a position she held for 15 years before being cut in early 2018.