An Open Letter to Stein Mart's New CEO Dawn Robertson

Subject: An Open Letter to Stein Mart's New CEO Dawn Robertson
From: A Decorated Employee
Date: 2 Jun 2016

To Our New CEO,

As I am on my lunch break and can hear the voices of several influential and important members of the Corporate administration on a company-wide conference call in just the other room, I decided to start reading the press releases from the last few months. I saw that, while the fourth quarter of 2015 was less than anticipated, the net worth of the company increased and the value of our stock rose over the course of the year. We are projected to open up to 12 new stores in 2016, and are feeling a push to modify our merchandising techniques. All of this is well and good, and hopefully you will bring fresh ideas to the company.
That being said, I only have one concern: why, despite our steady growth, have we not seen a raise in wages? There is not a single place in the country a person, even working full time, can rent an apartment working at minimum wage.
Where I live, in Wilmington, North Carolina, making less than roughly $13.00 hours makes it impossible to rent an apartment. I live with my girlfriend and even with our combined income we struggle. I can't pay my student loans. I can't purchase a car, and definitely can't finance one. At the end of each week, despite smart spending and, in general, doing what I can to cut down my personal expenses, I only have a few dollars in my account. I am a full time employee. I get health insurance, dental and vision, which is great, but doesn't put food on my table. I work hard, have earned multiple Employee of the Month commendations, and for my efforts have received gift cards. Gift cards to Stein Mart.
The only raises I've received have been pennies. The only non-scheduled raise I received was when our store was given a commendation by a magazine, and the raise was so pitiful it was like a slap in the face. I personally know several people that left the company because it offended them. I admit that I was enraged by it, and it still burns. I know people that have been here for years and never received a raise, despite the continuously rising cost of living here in North Carolina and across the country.
I'm a talented person, I know this not because my grandmother told me, but because of the glowing recommendations offered to me by previous employers. I'm not stupid, either. I graduated with a great GPA, president of my Honors society, and the head of a number of organizations on my campus. I've run small businesses and been a manager or supervisor in several places. I have been at Stein Mart for nearly 3 years now, and it is becoming clear that I am being exploited. I saw it before, and perhaps because I like my co-workers and my management team I ignored it. But no longer.
Now, Dawn, I'm sure you're a good person, I'm sure you care about your employees, and all I'm asking, as you embark on your new executive adventures, is that we see some changes other than to continuously receive messages asking us to cut hours and increase productivity. I'm completely unable to keep up with the demands on my position as I no longer have the help that I used to. I spend most of my time exhausted because I have to work three (sometimes four) jobs to get by, which is pretty clearly an egregious and ridiculous situation to be in. No one working, and working well, at a full time job, should have to worry about whether or not they can afford lunch every day of the week, or only eat lunch three days a week. I want to be more productive, I want to be a better employee and contribute to a positive company culture, but I can't because the company won't let me.
Many of us feel like the container a meal comes in. Really important when you need it, but once you've eaten everything the container no longer matters. It is easily discarded.
Please don't treat us as trash, we're not just depositories of productivity. We are people, and we are floundering. Your company is only as strong as the people working at the brick and mortar level, and I can tell you from personal experience that almost no one takes it seriously because it feels like you, the company, do not take us seriously.
I humbly advise you, from the midst of a cascade of cardboard and merchandise, to start taking us seriously. I also recognize that this will probably get me into trouble. My management team has no idea I'm writing this. I did not write it on the clock, nor did I post it on the clock.

Best of luck, Dawn.

Benjamin Baker
Wilmington, NC

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