This article is part of our Real-Money Stock Picks series.
In my book, the crux of the issue right now is not simply a financial disappointment, although many investors would focus on that particular aspect. Waste Management's second-quarter profit fell 12% to $208 million, or $0.45 per share, and revenue rose a scant 3% to $3.46 billion.
Waste Management's profitability has been hurt by one-time charges associated with withdrawing from a pension plan, but also lower prices on some of the commodities it recycles. In addition, its waste-to-energy segment has faltered as electricity prices fell by 10%.
None of these issues are spooky enough for me to want to ditch Waste Management shares, but one aspect I find far more disturbing is that the company announced it's slashing 700 U.S. jobs, or 2% of its total workforce.
Waste Management's news gets worse. The company's tussling with the Teamsters in Seattle and has had to bring in replacement drivers in the Seattle market as workers strike there. These replacements are only for commercial customers, not residential ones. Apparently employee relations aren't going swimmingly well, and I doubt residential customers are enjoying piles of collecting garbage.
Further, Seattle regulators aren't taking kindly to the hold-ups, either. It threatened fines of $1.25 million per day if service disruptions continue, or even $3 million if several cities in nearby counties follow suit.
Responsibility goes beyond green
When it comes to seeking out companies that have spearheaded responsibility in their business practices, employee happiness is part of the package. Mass layoffs do not result in happy employees.
On a bigger picture level, the U.S. economy continues to struggle, and that situation isn't helped by more layoff announcements. Waste Management joins the dubious ranks of Cisco
What's more responsible behavior? Corporate leaders like Starbucks'
I'm not selling Waste Management from my portfolio at this time, but I've got my eye on its progress in this area. I've long held the opinion that mass layoffs are not a positive for companies' futures. Near-term profit boosts simply don't make up for the long-term damage mass layoffs can do. Given how layoffs can help trash our future, Waste Management's position may be in danger.