Special Report

Ten Companies Paying Americans the Least

10. Starbucks
> U.S. workforce: 120,000
> CEO compensation: $28.9 million
> Revenue: $13.3 billion
> Net income: $1.4 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 7,049

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) employs 120,000 workers across the United States. Howard Schultz, the company’s CEO, has become a billionaire by turning Starbucks from a small coffee retailer into one of the world’s most famous brands. Last year, Schultz took home nearly $29 million in total compensation. Schultz is often viewed as a progressive executive, due to his support of gay marriage and his request that customers not bring guns into Starbucks locations. In an interview with CNBC in March, Schultz cautiously supported a minimum wage hike. However, according to Glassdoor.com, baristas at Starbucks are paid an average of less than $9 an hour. Schultz has downplayed the relevance of these figures.

9. TJX Companies
> U.S. workforce: 138,211 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $21.8 million
> Revenue: $25.9 billion
> Net income: $1.9 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,355

The TJX Companies Inc. (NYSE: TJX) operates Marshalls, TJ Maxx and HomeGoods in the United States. The company’s stores are off-price retailers, meaning they buy unsold inventory from manufacturers and other retailers and resell it at a discount. TJX’s sales have grown in the past four consecutive fiscal years as the retailer also boosted its operating profit margin. Despite the company’s success, sales associates at its stores earn less than $8 an hour on average, according to Glassdoor.com.

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8. Macy’s 
> U.S. workforce: 175,700
> CEO compensation: $13.8 million
> Revenue: $27.7 billion
> Net income: $1.3 billion
> No. of U.S. stores: 844

Annual revenue at Macy’s Inc. (NYSE: M) has risen slightly over the past four years, up from roughly $25 billion in 2008 to more than $27.7 billion at the end of its latest fiscal year. Macy’s, the second-largest department store in the United States, exceeded Wall Street’s expectations this past quarter, posting large increases in sales and earnings from the year before. Earlier this year, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union ratified a five-year agreement with Macy’s that should help protect the benefits of nearly 700 Macy’s employees in Maryland and Washington, D.C. According to Glassdoor.com, associates are paid under $9 an hour on average.

7. Darden Restaurants
> U.S. workforce: 203,389 (est.)
> CEO compensation: $6.4 million
> Revenue: $8.6 billion
> Net income: $412 million
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,105

Revenues at Darden Restaurants Inc. (NYSE: DRI), the parent company of chains such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster, rose from just $7.2 billion in 2009 to $8.6 billion in fiscal 2013. According to Morningstar’s analysis, operating margins have been some of the best in the industry in the past few years. Additionally, instead of raising wages, the company’s funds have been used effectively “to fund growth concepts and enhance total shareholder returns.” Yet the results have not been enough for investors, some of whom have pushed for the company to split and continue to cut costs faster. In 2013, Fortune named Darden one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” citing access to low-cost health insurance for part-time employees. Still, pay for many workers at Olive Garden and Red Lobster is frequently less than $10.00 per hour, according to Glassdoor.com. However, many of these employees may receive tips in addition to their base pay.

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6. Sears Holdings
> U.S. workforce: 246,000
> CEO compensation: $1.3 million (Louis D’Ambrosio, former CEO)
> Revenue: $39.9 billion
> Net income: -$930 million
> No. of U.S. stores: 2,073

Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD), owner of both Sears and Kmart, is in heavy competition with other department stores. The median hourly wage for department store workers was just $9.83 in 2012. At Sears, sales associates averaged slightly more than $8 an hour, while cashiers averaged $7.70 per hour. Kmart offered similar pay to its workers as well, with 105 cashiers and 75 sales associates reporting to Glassdoor.com that their hourly wages were less than $8.00. However, Sears Holdings may not have the necessary ability to increase its employees’ pay. Sales have slipped in the past few years, plunging from $47.8 billion in fiscal 2008 to less than $40 billion in the most recent year. The company has also failed to post an operating profit in either of the past two full fiscal years.