The Latest Martyr To The Republican Corporate Cause


With apologies to upper Politicus management, this is not what one would consider a “breaking” news story, the specialty of the house. It is a story that must be told, however.

As a direct consequence of Republican policies and corporate greed, yet another modern-day American Martyr has been added to the growing list of innocents who have given their lives to the right-wing cause of indifference to all but the wealthiest companies and individuals. Trayvon Martin is one such martyr.

Knowing what we know, Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, may be soon joining the ranks of martyrdom. The many tens of thousands of people, dead from lack of food, health care, gun obsession and pollution are, indeed, martyrs by any definition.

If there was a wall of martyrdom, Maria Fernandes’ name would surely be chiseled into it. Her avoidable tragedy goes back to August 25th when young Maria died in her parked car after apparently falling asleep and some time later being overcome by a combination of carbon monoxide and the fumes from a tipped over gas can in her 13-year-old car. The aging car had recently had exhaust problems. She had collapsed in sleep after working at one of her three minimum-wage part-time jobs with Dunkin’ Donuts outlets. Friends said she had worked as many as four such jobs and often slept in her car. Reuters identified her overnight shifts in Linden, afternoon shifts in Newark and/or weekends in Harrison.

She was a pleasant-faced, 32-year-old woman (you can see her here), described by those who knew her as a generous, sweet soul and a huge fan of the late Michael Jackson. Her death is an obscenity and as brutal in its own way as any I’ve ever heard about. Brutal, because the first reaction you’ll hear from the typical Republican, given her surname of Fernandes; “was she an illegal alien?” For the record, she wasn’t, having been born in the USA. She lived for a time in Portugal, then returned to America at age 18. Her passing was also Brutal, because Republicans have consistently demonstrated an indifference to the health and well being of anyone of a different race, creed or color and economic strata, not to mention sexual orientation.

Her death is Brutal, because she had to spend her time working for nothing because Englishman, Nigel Travis, the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc, the company that owns Dunkin’ Donuts and sister company, Baskin-Robbins, couldn’t afford to pay his employees more than minimum wage, even given his quote in referencing last year business successes, “Our fourth quarter was strong, capping off a great year in which we set records and achieved major milestones for both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins,” Nigel personally raked in well over $4 million for his efforts and has stock options up the Wazoo. Four other top executives earned well over a million a year. Dunkin’s market cap is $4.82 billion. So, available cash doesn’t seem to be a bloody problem.

Dunkin’ Brands trades on the NASDAQ exchange (DNKN) in the neighborhood of $45-$50. The company’s own website reports 2013 sales for Dunkin’ Brands Group at a staggering $9.3 billion. I’m assuming that includes both Baskin-Robbins and international numbers. Of course, revenue doesn’t reflect the final profits, but whatever level is listed for that number, bookkeeping renders indecipherable. Suffice to say, this is one extremely wealthy company. CEO Travis, a veteran international business presence is apparently headquartered in Great Britain in Manchester, United Kingdom, Travis’ native country, though the company website claims Canton, Massachusetts as its headquarters.

Back in 2006, Private Equity investors, Bain Capital Partners of Mitt Romney renown, the infamous Carlyle Group, influence peddler extraordinaire in playing a heavy insider role in seeing who gets giant contracts to “rebuild” Iraq and Thomas H. Lee Partners, a leveraged buyout firm right at home with the likes of Bain and Carlyle, acquired the lion’s share of Dunkin’ Brands and today still hold about a 75% stake.

There are multiple billions floating around the halls of the Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. Their franchisees foot the bill for almost everything in acquiring the Dunkin’ Donuts’ name and hugely profitable coffee sales that account for the major share of profits.

DBG could pay their employees out of pocket change. They don’t. They hire poor, desperate men and women who are at the point of accepting any job out there, no matter the wages or conditions. Maria Fernandes was one such employee. Federal statistics claim only 5% of workers are part-time. That’s pure rubbish and a bald-faced lie. Take FedEx, a company that’s opening a facility in my county. Of well over 200 new “jobs,” 41 will be full-time. Another local company “employs” 350 people, virtually all part-time phone workers pressuring for past-due sub-prime car loans. Part-time hires through willing temp agency accomplices are the greatest corporate racket going.

Whenever you hear of one of those multi-nationals coming to town with all those jobs in tow, I can almost guarantee you that they’re parsing the job numbers and wages so as to make the maximum profits off the backs of the Marias of our country.

And yet, in Congress and the vast majority of the red states, every effort of populist Democratic Senators and Representatives to raise the niggling $7.25 minimum wage meets with vicious resistance from the professionals, doctors and wealthy businessmen who populate our legislatures. A South Carolina bill asked for a $1.00 raise in the minimum wage. Republican legislators saw to it the bill went nowhere except oblivion as did another requesting a bit more.

Ms. Fernandez parents apparently still live in Portugal. She returned at age 18 after about five years in residence there. If there were any way on earth to at least initiate a class action lawsuit against the millionaire heads of billionaire companies, I’d hope that some group like those employees who are protesting fast food company wages could find a law firm with a conscience. A few days ago, thousands of workers and their supporters protested in 150 cities across the U.S. mostly in reaction to cheap McDonald’s franchises that are each making a fortune, as is the parent company.

You can believe the Republican propaganda hacks are having their PR people working overtime to besmirch the reputation of Maria. They’ll point out that she spoke four languages and could have easily found office work with her intelligence. Of course, if she had no college education, lacking the money, loans or qualifications to pay tuition, she could speak 40 languages and still not find a decent paying job. But not to fear right-wingers, your sleaze-balls will dig something up. That’s the way you people operate.

RIP Martyr Maria.

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