On Thursday, the US-based logistics and delivery company UPS announced a quarterly dividend payout to shareholders of more than $700 million for the three months to August 2018. The announcement came the very same day as the Teamsters union met in Chicago, Illinois to endorse new contracts for UPS workers that enforce poverty-level wages and introduce major new concessions.
UPS’s dividend payout is an object lesson in the basic functioning of capitalism. Where does this $700 million come from? It did not, after all, arise out of thin air. It is extracted from the labor of hundreds of thousands of workers, in the US and internationally. It is part of the surplus value produced by these workers—the difference between the wages they earn by selling their labor power, barely enough to survive, and the value they add in the process of production and distribution.
The beneficiaries of this process of exploitation are not only the corporate executives that run UPS, but the major institutional investors and super-rich that own UPS stock. The largest UPS shareowners include the hedge funds Vanguard Group (which will receive $46 million), Blackrock ($36 million) and State Street Corporation ($24 million). These hedge funds then distribute their “earnings” to the financial parasites and billionaires that manage and invest in them.
For his part, UPS’s CEO David Abney, who controls over 200,000 shares, will add another $180,000 to his 2017 compensation of more than $14 million.
Assuming similar payments to investors for the rest of the year, UPS’s 2018 dividend payout of $2.8 billion would be enough to give each of the quarter-million workers at UPS an immediate raise of more than $11,000—almost doubling the annual salary of a part-time warehouse worker on $10 an hour and 25 hours a week. It would take such a worker 1,000 years to make what UPS CEO Abney was paid in 2017.