The annual Labor Day holiday once more has come and gone, a sign that summer is on its way out and school is just getting started for another year.
Very few of us remember that Labor Day actually used to mean something to the trades, but now it’s just another holiday.
Heck, President Trump decided it was a good idea to attack Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, on Labor Day for Trumka’s comments about workers getting the shaft from the president despite a low unemployment rate.
“Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, represented his union poorly on television this weekend,” Trump stated Sept. 3. “Some of the things he said were so against the working men and women of our country, and the success of the U.S. itself, that it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly.”
The fact remains very few benefits have accrued to the average worker in this country as a result of the Trump tax cuts, which promised to deliver more jobs but sadly haven’t as of yet.
Unions might be a dying breed in America, but there still are plenty of companies that have both unionized and non-unionized employees.
Here are seven stocks to buy that have a positive approach to their employees.
Stocks to Buy: Boeing (BA)
As a company, Boeing is running at full throttle, something that’s reflected in its stock, which trades at 24 times earnings.
“Boeing’s earnings multiples have expanded as those earnings have grown — which isn’t always the case with a cyclical stock. Indeed, a 20x+ price-to-earnings multiple for Boeing stock last decade likely only would have come when news was relatively negative, and investors bought the stock anticipating a cyclical boost in the years to come,” InvestorPlace’s Vince Martin wrote in July. “But investors now are willing to pay that multiple during a strong period, because they believe at worst the strength will last for years to come.”
I believe that the opportunity in China continues to make BA a stock you want to own.
As for caring for its labor, the unionized portion of its workforce doesn’t seem to have a lot of nice things to say about the company despite earning considerably more than its non-unionized peers.
Long-term, as the company looks to reduce the number of unionized employees, it’s possible the relationship between workers and management will sour, but for now, business is in full throttle.
Stocks to Buy: Caterpillar (CAT)
One of the employees of the Joliet plant affected by the decision filed a complaint claiming the way in which the company distributed the proceeds of the funds held in the trust used to pay the unemployment benefits discriminated against older employees.
What ensued was a six-year legal battle.
While it might not appear to be a good move by Caterpillar, the judge that wrote the opinion suggested that the company came up with a retirement incentive that got people to voluntarily retire.
Any time you can cull the heard to make way for younger workers, it’s a good thing for shareholders.
Caterpillar’s stock has lost 10% year-to-date, yet most of its end-markets are doing much better than they were a year ago, leading to a much bigger backlog of future orders.
Add to this to an ongoing focus on reducing costs, and you can expect margins to improve in the future leading to higher earnings-per-share. Earlier in the year, it expected adjusted earnings of at least $10.25-per-share.
It now expects them to be at least $11.
Stocks to Buy: UPS (UPS)
What’s the big deal?
Well, full-time employees typically earn $36-an-hour, while part-timers make considerably less at $15-an-hour. The company wanted to pay those weekend employees $15-an-hour despite working full-time hours.
Fortunately, for UPS shareholders, the company came to a five-year agreement with the Teamsters, who represent the 250,000 (58% of the total workforce), unionized employees.
When it comes to deciding which stock is better, UPS or FedEx (NYSE:FDX), I generally side with FedEx, but averting a strike and keeping the peace at a company that depends on unionized workers to get the job done is a big win for management.
UPS lost a big chunk of its value in February after a weak Q4. It has since recovered most of those losses; with a happy workforce in its hip pocket, I’d look for future stock gains.
Stocks to Buy: Lockheed Martin (LMT)
Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) does a lot of business with the federal government. In 2017, something like 70% of its $51 billion in annual revenue was from U.S. government contracts, more than the entire gross domestic product of Bolivia.
I found this out on the website for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Without the excellent workers represented by IAM, America wouldn’t have aircraft like the F-35, the stealthiest fighter in its arsenal.
Talking about the F-35, earlier this summer the company reached a production agreement with the Pentagon that will see it build 141 fifth-generation fighters and 160-per-year by 2023.
At $80 million an aircraft, Lockheed is looking at $12.8 billion in annual revenue from the F-35, and that’s just one of the many projects it has got on the go.
In July, I suggested that LMT stock was a great buy given its stock was in the middle of only its third correction of 10% or more since merging Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta in 1995.
It’s up 5.2% since then. Expect more to come heading into 2019.
Stocks to Buy: 3M (MMM)
3M (NYSE:MMM), the manufacturer of Post-it Notes is not having a good year on the markets; its stock is down 10% year-to-date.
My InvestorPlace colleague, Luke Lango, doesn’t see it getting much better for 3M shareholders over the remainder of 2018.
“This is a company with 5% revenue growth potential over the next 5 years. That revenue growth is protected by a wide moat, but it doesn’t have many catalysts on the horizon which could spark 10%-plus growth. Thus, this is a big-moat, low-growth company,” Lango wrote July 24. “Unfortunately, big moat, low growth won’t spur big gains for 3M stock from $200.”
It’s hard to argue with Lango’s logic. You can’t suck blood from a stone.
So, why did I pick MMM stock in early May along with six other stocks that lost 10% in April?
Well, first off, I think 3M’s business is fantastic. It has its hands in a lot of different pies, and unlike General Electric (NYSE:GE), it has a growth strategy.
There’s no question that 3M stock is in a funk. In late January, MMM hit an all-time high of $259.77, and it has been downhill ever since.
Lango doesn’t think it will get off the mat. I do.
Although the company lowered its full-year expectation for earnings by 10 cents to $10.45-per-share in July, that’s still a decent number. Add in a 2.6% dividend yield and I’m confident it can revisit its all-time high sometime in 2019.
Stocks to Buy: Hershey (HSY)
It could have been a miserable year for Hershey (NYSE:HSY) shareholders given its stock was down 20% through the end of April. However, it has managed to battle back, up 12% in the last three months alone.
In 2016, Hershey’s production and maintenance workers at its West Hershey plant signed a new six-year contract. The West Hershey plant opened in 2012; it produces Hershey’s Kisses, Hershey’s chocolate bars and Hershey’s Syrup.
If you like any of these products, you can thank the good men and women working at the plant for making them a reality.
As for Hershey, the company, a lot of experts consider it undersized to fight the global chocolate wars. They may be right. However, it won’t be from a lack of effort by CEO Michele Gross Buck, who’s been in the top job since March 2017.
Since taking the helm, Gross Buck has orchestrated a big acquisition paying $1.6 billion for Amplify Snack Brands, makers of the Skinny Pop brand of snacks, while also focusing on improving its gross margins for more than a couple of quarters.
Hershey’s history is too storied to go down without a fight. Gross Buck’s experience makes her the perfect person to lead that fight. Expect more acquisitions in the months and years ahead.
It’s an underdog, but I like its chances.
Stocks to Buy: A.O. Smith (AOS)
Like many of the stocks on this list, A.O. Smith (NYSE:AOS) is not having a good year on the markets, down 5% year-to-date.
AOS is a stock that has been on my radar for a long time. I first recommended it in July 2012, when it was trading around $12.50.
I just loved its business model of manufacturing its products in the places it sold them rather than shipping their water heaters all over the world costing time and money.
In China, since the mid-1990s, it’s now the market share leader with nobody even close. Sales in China have grown by 21% annually on a compound basis over the past decade and represent 34% of the company’s overall revenue.
That’s a lot of growth, but the exciting part is it has a lot more growth ahead — and that doesn’t even include the growth potential at its Indian business.
Although A.O. Smith’s dividend yield is just 1.3%; it has grown the payout for 25 consecutive years, making it a Dividend Aristocrat.
I urge you to check this company out. It’s the real deal.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.