It seems to me that the demand of investors for continued stock increases and dividend returns results in companies continuing to find ways to meet those demands. They increase efficiency, increase profit margins and squeeze everything they can out of workers.
Just theorizing here..
Is therefore, everyone who owns stock, either directly or through retirement plans, guilty in aiding this?
If shareholders of Walmart demanded that the company treat workers better, would they do so by increasing the "Value" of Walmart shares? Or McDonalds? Or would shares slip if profit margins decreased because the company is paying employees more, thereby causing alarm to the stockholders which would escalate the pace of the price drop?
Sadly, I predict that until the "investing public" places more monetary value on the values of a company, this trend will not cease. This is only exacerbated by the fact that almost all of investing dollars are indirectly invested (by funds, instead of by individuals), and therefore, the need to place this value on companies gets diluted as the buying of stocks isn't done by individuals.
Maybe it's always been this way, maybe not. I'm just as guilty as the next person when trying to calculate just how much I have to save for retirement and what rate of return I can safely expect so that I can sustain my family.