With its own workers standing up against poverty wages and exploitation, Walmart is siccing the cops on past and present employees, allegedly on false pretenses.
As Black Friday approached, the honchos at Walmart, the largest employer in the United States, found themselves at a loss to respond to a nationwide rebellion within the ranks of their near-captive workers — people who work for an average wage of $8.81 per hour , according to The National Memo, often in areas where Walmart is the only game in town for a job if you don’t have a college degree (or even if you do). And so it seems they started making stuff up, and pulling strings — in at least two locations — to get local police to do their bidding.
Across the country this Friday, Walmart workers and their supporters are conducting rallies and protests at or near Walmart stores, as shoppers line up in the pre-dawn hours for a crack at the super-bargains that are the retailer’s Black Friday hallmark.
For more than six months, two groups linked to the United Food & Commercial Workers union have been working on behalf of Walmart employees, demanding a living wage, a humane level of benefits, reasonable hours and an end to the company’s legendary retaliation against workers who seek to unionize and put an end to its abusive labor practices , including wage theft. Walmart employees number 1.4 million, and, as Catherine Ruetschlin of Demos reports, it is the country’s largest single employer of African Americans.
The groups, OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart , are relying largely on social media campaigns to organize what are expected to be thousands of Walmart workers walking off the job today. Aiding in the organizing are former Walmart employees, such as Alex Rivera, who claims he was fired by Walmart in Orlando this September for joining the OUR Walmart campaign, according to a report by The Nation ‘s Josh Eidelson.
On Wednesday, Rivera was handcuffed by Orlando police — in front of his former colleagues — when he entered the store in which he was formerly employed, because, Eidelson writes, Walmart managers appear to have falsely told police that the store had a ‘no tresspassing’ order against the former Walmart ‘associate,’ as the mega-retailer calls its employees.
Thanks to recent teacher layoffs and the miserable job market, I’ve gone from substitute high-school teacher to Wal-Mart associate.
Teaching gave me weekends off for more pleasurable activities like annoying the roommate’s cat or plucking my nipple hair. But this Sunday, I spent eight hours playing Avoid the Customer. It’s a challenging game in which, at the end of the day, I reward myself by not committing suicide.
Why do I play this game? Sanity. Last week, for example, I walked behind a middle-aged mother who, after ordering her kid to drop a toy in the hardware section, told him, “Don’t worry, they’ll pick it up.”
Customers may be the worst part of my job, but they’re not the only part of this gig that sucks.
See, like millions of Americans, I’m underemployed. The government doesn’t count people like me in its official unemployment numbers.
And those numbers are pretty grim; the national unemployment rate is at 9.6 percent, with 15 million Americans looking for work. I guess working at Walmart is better than nothing.
But working for low pay is about as rewarding as stabbing out your own eyeballs with a stale baguette. $14 billion in profits last year bumped Walmart back on top of the Fortune 500 list, and the company keeps up those profits partly by paying associates as little as (legally) possible. Walmart wages are not only well below living wage, we’re paid significantly less than comparable jobs at other retailers.
But I don’t have children or major medical expenses, so I do OK with my pathetic paycheck. But several of my coworkers support spouses or children; one just told me he relies on government support to pay his bills, including child support.
My coworkers are a diverse mix. Many are immigrants with limited English skills. Others have college degrees and wound up at Walmart when the economy tanked.
Still others are well past retirement age, requiring canes or shopping carts to move around the store. Yet these are the people management sees fit to post at the front of the store for hours at a time as a shoplifting deterrent. (Did I say shoplifting deterrent? I meant, “Store Greeter.”) I haven’t been at the store long enough to ask these sextegenerians (and well beyond) why they’re still working, but I’m guessing it’s not because they really, really, really like wearing blue. They’re probably like the growing number of seniors who have lost their retirement savings and are forced to work to keep their health benefits (if the store offers them any), and to keep themselves out of poverty. Hell of a way to spend your final years, demanding to check the receipt of every person walking out of the store.
This article was written 2 years ago, situation is no different today.
I realize that workers at Target, Meijer, Best Buy and other “big box” stores aren’t treated much better, but once the Walmart workers organize and get better treatment and are paid enough to stay off food stamps, the others should fall in line.
If you do shop at Walmart (or any similar store), smile and say hi! to the underpaid, abused “greeter” and the cashier who checks out your purchases. Say “Thank you, [their name!] Have a great day!”
Walmart, one of the richest corporations in the world, refuses to pay its employees a livable wage or provide any form of decent healthcare, increasing reliance on government assistance, and the need for a social safety net.
At over $446 billion per year, Walmart is the third highest revenue grossing corporation in the world. Walmart earns over $15 billion per year in pure profit and pays its executives handsomely. In 2011, Walmart CEO Mike Duke – already a millionaire a dozen times over – received an $18.1 million compensation package. The Walton family controlling over 48 percent of the corporation through stock ownership does even better. Together, members of the Walton family are worth in excess of $102 billion – which makes them one of the richest families in the world.
What is shameful is that CEO Mike Duke makes more money in one hour, than his employees earn in an entire year. Yet, Walmart – which employs millions of people in its stores, distribution centers, and warehouses – continues to abuse its employees and refuses to pay them a livable wage. The company has frequently been charged with wage theft claims by workers who point to the most common forms of wage theft: the refusal to pay proper overtime, the refusal to honor the minimum wage, and illegal paycheck deductions.
Meanwhile, Walmart routinely blocks any attempt by workers to organize, using anti-union propaganda and scare tactics, firing employees without just cause, failing to provide any form of decent healthcare coverage or a livable wage.
To make matters worse, these abusive Walmart policies have increased employee reliance on government assistance and the need for a government funded social safety net. In fact, Walmart has become the number one driver behind the growing use of food stamps in the United States with “as many as 80 percent of workers in Wal-Mart stores using food stamps.”