November 30, 2011
Vol: 18 No: 46

Community & Editorial

Workers pay dearly for Walmart’s low wages

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More than 1 million Americans work at Walmart. I am one of them. I started at the Mount Vernon, Wash., store in November of 1999 as a sales associate in sporting goods and worked my way up to an assistant manager. After a couple of years I no longer had any pride in my job. I felt like I was treating people like property instead of employees. Now I work as a sales floor associate and a front-end cashier.

Many of my co-workers became homeless because they had their hours cut. Many associates are living in poverty and are afraid to speak out and ask for more hours. They fear retaliation.

You’ve heard that story before. But here’s something new. I have joined the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, OUR Walmart for short. It is a new organization of former and current Walmart associates who are coming together to get respect at work from one of the nation’s largest employers. Through OUR Walmart I am combining my efforts with thousands of others to help all of us stand strong and command respect and better treatment.

What do I mean by respect? Try this one on for size. Walmart, which posted a whopping $16 billion in profits last year, just sent workers a notice about slashing our health care coverage and making associates pay for huge increases in our premiums. By the way, that’s for the lucky ones like me who have enough hours and can scrape together enough money to qualify and afford it.

The numbers of lucky ones just got a lot smaller. Next year, part-time workers who work fewer than 24 hours a week will no longer be eligible for Walmart’s insurance plans. Full-time employees will see their premiums rise as much as 40 percent, or 60 percent if we have kids.

I don’t make a lot of money. After 10 years with Walmart I earn about $26,000 annually working full-time. And I’m one of the fortunate ones who can get full time hours. Many in my store make less than I do per hour and many can’t get full-time hours even though they want them.

I challenge Walmart CEO Mike Duke, whose hourly pay rate is 1000 times mine, to donate one day of his pay, and I will donate one day of my pay to help defray the cost of Walmart associates’ health care. How about that for a challenge?

Sure, it’s a little hokey. But the bottom line is this: Walmart can afford to pay these costs. The CEO can pay his hard-working employees a decent wage with decent benefits and stop dragging down the standards of employment in this great country of ours.

My colleagues and I are willing to work hard and play by the rules. We are not asking for much—respect, a dependable schedule, decent wages and benefits. We also want success for our company, and we share a commitment to outstanding service for customers. We just don’t want to be exploited.

Our economy is a mess. It is impossible to know exactly what will happen in retail sales between “Black Friday” and Christmas. One thing is for sure: When people don’t earn enough money to make ends meet, they can’t spend it. So when corporate giants like Walmart squeeze their workers, it only makes matters worse. Four years into this recession, we’re barely making ends meet. The company’s “savings” come at a big cost to people like me.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If rich companies such as Walmart chose to invest more in their workers, it would not only improve sales at our stores but also help the U.S. economy. Imagine improving the buying power of millions of Americans who work at Walmart and other retail and grocery chains. Even modest increases in pay and benefits would act as an undeniably positive force.

Instead, all we have right now are cuts. That’s why I joined other Walmart associates from across the country in chanting, “We are the 99 percent” outside the company’s home office in Bentonville, Ark., last month.

The economy is stuck in a rut. If companies like Walmart took responsibility and treated workers with respect and compensated us for our hard labor, we could help get this economy going again.

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Comments

I wish Walmart would show more respect for there associates than treat them like a piece of property.

Deborah Young | submitted on 12/05/2011, 12:35pm

I was terminated 1.5 yrs ago because I tripped and fell at DC6038 in Marcy Ny , even though I had told my ops manager Rick Gonzalez of the safety issue the previous month, I was told I knew there was a problem so I should of been more careful. the day this warehouse becomes unionized i will dance in the street!!!!!!!!!

Colleen H Baris | submitted on 12/05/2011, 3:43pm

Hi there.There are good non-union jobs out there in both Canada and in the United States.They require post secondary education, and sometimes high school is enough for these jobs.One could go to trade school for one of these jobs too. There are also unionized jobs out there that pay people well, like through the U.F.C.W, American Auto Workers and other union bodies that exist in Canada and in the United States. If you look at how athletes got paid in the past, many of these professional sports, are unionized.The N.F.L, N.B.A, M.L.B, N.H.L all have unions.There are sports items being sold at Wal-Mart.There are also sport figures, with their union affiliation on them, being sold at Wal-Mart. If you want better work conditions, better pay, better benefits, then you will have to stand up for it, just like our ancestors from the Industrial Revolution days did. Greed is taking over, and that is why people support the Occupy movement.It's about the middle class growing and not shrinking. Loblaws and other unionized grocery stores pay better wages and benefits. We all are concerned about fear in the work place, but sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe in, and see where that road takes you. Are the staff of Wal-Mart willing to make those phone calls that could help them, or would they rather suffer in silence? Wal-Mart is your school bully, who does not respect you anymore.Wal-Mart legally is a person.So you can either rise up and fix the problem through legal means, or submit to the bully. Good luck with either path the workers choose.Getting beat up by the bully isn't fun, but sometimes the bully gets defeated too.

James Fritz | submitted on 12/05/2011, 7:21pm

I was an asset protection associate for 20 months at 2 different walmart stores. I was terminated in March 2011 for what was called a bad stop and failing to report it. Funny thing is I never stopped the guy, or anything. My APC assset protection cooridinator saw if differently and fired me. Not only was I fired, I was listed as not rehirable, and denied unemployment. Here we are 9 months later and I'm still unemployeed, lost most of what I owned. I have applied at several retail and grocery stores that were hiring for asset protection and other areas. I have not received a single interview. My view is that either my former boss is giving me a shitty reference which is illegal, but does happen, or when employers call walmart and find out I'm not rehirable they assume it was for theft which is not the case. So either way I'm screwed. I've tried contacting district and area reps to no avail. My former boss broke so many of the APO9 rules its pathetic. Yet during my time as an AP I lead the market in stops 5 different months. I can prove my boss broke rules, just can't get through to anyone when I call. Its very frustrating. At this point I'm at my wits end. Very close to being homless and having my car repocessed. This is not where I visioned myself at 48 years of age. I probably should have been a good little soldier and not said anything to my voice about better ways to prevent theft, and safety areas of concern.

James Pachmayr | submitted on 12/06/2011, 5:47pm

I have the solution for all of the Walmart workers who think they are treated unfairly. QUIT. That is right, just walk out the door and never look back. Walmart doesn't own you, and they are making you miserable. If all the unhappy Walmart workers would resign, this would no longer be an issue

Bruce Paramore | submitted on 12/08/2011, 2:01pm


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