Today Patriotic Millionaire TJ Zlotnitsky stood with a coalition of leaders – including Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, Representative Barbara Lee, and many, many more – to rally on behalf of the American worker. He delivered the following remarks:
“I’m proud and honored to stand here with all of you today and speak on behalf of business leaders who, like myself, honor and cherish our workers and believe American workers deserve more than just empty slogans.
I came to America as a 12-year-old with my parents, initially overstaying a tourist visa. We started with very little. My father held jobs well below his education for a while, then started a distribution business. We had some difficult times, but over the next 20+ years, with my brothers and my help, the company grew to an enterprise with operations in 33 states, tens of millions in revenue and almost 1,000 employees.
In 2009, my brother Sean and I co-founded iControl Data. We’ve worked hard and we’ve been blessed. Today, our nearly 100 employees average over $90,000 in salary and benefits, all workers receive stock options, and no one makes less than $17.85 per hour. You see, it does take hard work and good fortune for a business to be successful. But that’s not all it takes.
In my two decades in business, I’ve learned that the best way to build and sustain a company and reduce risk of business failure, is by valuing workers. I’ve learned first-hand that companies are usually far more successful when they have healthy, motivated, respected, fairly-compensated workers. Better yet: Those healthy and fairly-compensated workers are also great consumers, spurring demand for goods and services of all kinds, and driving even more economic activity. That’s how economies like ours, that are 70% consumer driven, grow and prosper.
And yet, some companies view their workers not as vital, valued assets; not as human beings with families and dreams who deserve safe working conditions and fair wages, but as disposable parts; as just an expense line on their financial statements. Some of these companies earn massive profits for their shareholders, which we should applaud, but fail to ensure their workers receive a fair share of that success, which we should condemn. Companies who don’t value their workforce deserve no accolades.
I’m glad Andrew Puzder stepped down, because he had a long track record of showing disregard for safe working conditions and fair wages. But our fight didn’t start, and it doesn’t end, with one man or one nomination, or even one administration. Friends, in 10 years, America will turn 250 years old. It is unacceptable that in our 250 years of history we have only gotten to a $7.25/hour minimum wage for a worker’s time. We are not denouncing capitalism when we say that it is essential to have much higher minimum wage, indexed to inflation; or when we demand a Labor secretary that will fight to uphold worker safety standards; or we demand a fairer tax system, where people like myself, who have been blessed by America’s bounty, pay a little bit extra so that we can once again live in an America where opportunities are plentiful, and living standards are on the rise.
These are not radical principles. These are not utopian ideas. If our goal is to have both a healthy economy, and a healthy society, it’s just plain common sense.
As a businessman, I know that putting more money into the hands of people who will spend it – American workers – is better for my business. You see, there simply is no better way to grow and sustain successful businesses and a strong economy than happy, healthy, motivated, fairly – compensated workers.
I promise you that I and the other members of the Patriotic Millionaires group, as well as the many, many business leaders who share our common-sense principles, will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight.