The non-profit scam

July 23, 2009

THE NON-PROFIT sector in the U.S. is a complete scam. Hospitals and other agencies get special breaks on property and income taxes. They plough their earnings into expansion and massive salaries for top executives, just like for-profit companies do.

The competitive dynamic that forces each corporation to accumulate as much capital as possible applies to non-profits just as much as for-profits. Employees for non-profits do the work that produces the funds that pay the CEOs--and are often paid even less than employees at for-profit corporations. So exploitation of workers is often even greater at "non-profit" companies than at for profit companies.

KUOW, a public radio station, did a story on non-profit hospitals in Seattle on July 9: Nurses at "non-profit" Swedish hospital start at around $25 per hour ($50,000 per year) and housekeepers get only $12 an hour, while Swedish CEO Rod Hochman made $ 1.5 million in the first nine months of 2007 alone! Hochman also got $120,000 for relocation expenses, as well as $13,000 for other expenses.

But it's not just Hochman--seven officials at Swedish made at least $1 million per year . Altogether, at least 15 Seattle-area non-profit hospital executives earned $1 million or more a year. These salaries come out of what is, in essence, profit made by the "non-profit" corporation. These high salaries continue as Swedish laid off 200 workers this year. Just like at for-profit companies, the people who do the real work get laid off and the ones who are left get overworked, while the CEOs accumulate more and more.

Workers at "non-profits" and public agencies deserve as much support and solidarity as any other workers. Workers as a whole produce the wealth--whether they work in for-profits, non-profits or government agencies. The wealth they produce keeps the whole economy going--to the benefit of the super-rich, whether they be CEOs or shareholders.

Management at non-profits try to sell workers on the idea that they are producing for the public good--so they should be willing to accept less money. Workers should reject this lying rationale that only serves the interests of management. They are actually working to line the pockets of the managers.

When workers rise up and take ownership and control of the economy they will have to transform the "non-profits" just as much as the "for-profits." They will have to squeeze the profit out of both and create an economy based on human need--instead of one based on profit or "non-profit" accumulation.
Steve Leigh, Seattle

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