Wednesday, September 25, 2013

True stories from Walmart hell

Walmart abuses its employees, let there be no doubt. The world's largest retailer keeps wages at poverty level by fighting hard against union organizing. As a result, many Walmart employees rely on public assistance to survive. Call it corporate welfare.

Meanwhile, the six Walmart heirs -- Sam Walton's widow, Christy, Jim Walton, Alice Walton, S. Robson Walton, Ann Walton Kroenke, Nancy Walton Laurie -- own more wealth than 42 percent of the American people.

If all that doesn't make you sick to your stomach, Hamilton Nolan's true stories from Walmart hell will. He posts them periodically to the online publication Gawker. Here are a few samples:
Wal-Mart no longer pays a dollar above minimum wage; they start cart pushers and people greeters at minimum wage and everyone else based on what job they have. As a cashier, I am "level 3," so I started at $7.65 when minimum wage was $7.25. 
The worst part is the benefits. We have to work all holidays except Christmas, and we don't get paid any extra. ... They refuse to make anyone full-time, but I never work less than 32 hours, and frequently work 39. I don't complain because I need the money.
Or this:
...overtime was never and will never be approved, ever. If you should work any hours over 40 in one week, even if called in or requested or threatened by management that you must work, you will not get overtime pay. They will just cut your hours or say "take a 4 hour break today." which, for a 5 hour shift, was stupid and a waste of my own time at that point.
Treatment of injured workers is about what you'd expect:
I was loading boxes into a cupboard under a cash register at the front of the store one day when I caught my hand on an exposed nail or screw or something. I yanked out my hand in surprise and suddenly there was a huge pool of blood on the floor. The floor manager rushed over and immediately ushered me into a nearby washroom. "Get him away from the customers!" was the unspoken but obvious goal. We haphazardly swaddled my profusely-bleeding hand in paper towels and then the HR manager drove me to the hospital in her car, but not before they made me sign...something. Presumably promising that I wouldn't sue them. 
Sam's Club is just as bad:
Cashiers at Sam's club have it worse than cashiers at Wal-Mart as they are forced to make people upgrade their memberships. Sam's cashiers go through meetings called One on One's where the supervisor tells you how shitty you are doing. Those who fail to reach appropriate number of upgrades, renewals, etc. are usually yelled at. The worse part — you don't get any commission for convincing Wendy Whorebag to upgrade her membership. Sometimes management favors you with a reward — a McDouble from McDonald's, something that you can afford yourself....oh, that's right you can't afford a McDouble from McDonalds because you work at Sam's Club.
It's comforting to know there are journalists like Nolan standing up for workers. Here's something he wrote last year, titled "Why We Need Unions."
Companies know that unions represent a sort of power for their workers that their workers will otherwise never have. That power translates to better working conditions and higher wages. That, in turn, eats into a company's profits, as all expenses do. A union does not throw off the balance of power in the workplace—lack of a union does. The most basic sense of decency and respect for human rights dictates that there must be some mechanism by which the workers—the humans—can assert their interests. Otherwise, they will be crushed by the machine. It's all very plain to see. To despise unions is to despise workers. To despise workers is to despise people.
If only all journalists believed that ...