SEATTLE - An Internet meme praising former Costco CEO James Sinegal went viral this week.
The meme came on the heels of news that current CEO Craig Jelinek told President Barack Obama not to raise taxes on the middle class.
It was Sinegal's face, however, that was featured on the meme.
The image was superimposed with text that reads "COSTCO CEO PAYS HIS EMPLOYEES $17/HR ON AVERAGE, PLUS BENEFITS. EARNS LESS THAN $500K, REFUSES WALL STREET DEMANDS TO CUT EMPLOYEE SALARIES AND BENEFITS."
Jim Sinegal co-founded Costco and served as the company's president and CEO for nearly three decades, but he stepped down from those positions in Jan. 2012.
The meme's text appears to have been drawn from a July 2005 New York Times profile of Sinegal:
"Some Wall Street analysts assert that Mr. Sinegal is overly generous not only to Costco's customers but to its workers as well.
"Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder."
"Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands."
The 2005 profile also indicated that Sinegal's salary was just $350,000, putting him at less than 10 percent of many other chief executives.
Costco currently runs 618 warehouses in several countries, including 447 in the United States and Puerto Rico.
According to the Seattle Times, current CEO Craig Jelinek is paid an annual salary of $650,000, plus a bonus of up to $200,000.