Sunday, January 08, 2006

Another Sort of Wendt Initiative...

It seems that Richard Wendt, multi-millionaire and benefactor of UD's Wendt Initiative, has been involved in many other sorts of initiatives, many of which seem to be quite opposed to the Christian social justice mission.

In 1999, the Northwest Labor Press (NLP) reported that Wendt was intimately involved in passing the so-called "JOBS Plus" measure in Oregon: "[T]he measure, as written, was to abolish unemployment benefits, food stamps, and welfare benefits, and use the money to put the former recipients to work in subsidized or unsubsidized jobs at 10 percent less than the minimum wage. Wendt gave over $180,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to the campaign for the measure" (emphasis added). The measure was "[b]ased on an idea Wendt had been mulling over for 20 years [...]."

The arguably immoral and economically dubious plan was slightly modified after Barbara Roberts was elected governor. "Under the terms of the compromise," NLP reports, "unemployment, welfare and food stamps would not be abolished. Instead, a portion of their funding would be diverted to fund a subsidy for employers who would hire from the unemployment and welfare rolls."

One such employer was JELD-WEN, Inc., the company founded by Richard Wendt in the 1960s, and the source of his wealth. According to NLP's 1999 report, "Since the statewide JOBS Plus program began in July 1996, 130 workers have been placed in 13 Jeld-Wen companies. That amounts to between $600,000 and $800,000 in welfare, food stamp and unemployment benefits converted to a wage subsidy for the largest privately-owned company in Oregon. Just under half of the JOBS Plus placements were hired permanently by the Jeld-Wen companies at the expiration of their subsidized term; most of the remainder have found jobs elsewhere."

It certainly seems that Dick Wendt recouped his $180,000 investment in the measure.

It is striking that this shrewd business move was the brainchild of the man who is effectively bankrolling the University's "ethics across the curriculum" initiative. Would our UD business professors, who are to incorporate ethical teaching in their class sessions, recommend such a cunning and profitable maneuver? We certainly hope not.
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