Trouble In Wallyworld

A recent story on ABC news told about a possible nationwide strike of Wal-Mart employees on “Black Friday” if the company doesn’t change its policy about allowing unions. Wal-Mart has been adamant about not allowing unions on the grounds that they are not necessary since their workers are well paid and happy. In the case of the recent threat, for example, a spokesman for the giant retailer had the following comment:

Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman . . .claim[ed] that most employees have “repeatedly rejected unionization.

“They seem to recognize that Walmart has some of the best jobs in the retail industry — good pay, affordable benefits and the chance for advancement,” he said in a telephone interview with ABC News.

Apparently it’s not just politicians who lie with a straight face; corporate spokespeople can do so as well. We all know that things are not going well for the giant retailer. There are numerous strikes and walk-outs at Wal-Mart stores around the country where employees who make barely above subsistence wages demand what they regard as their rights. In Chicago recently, for example 17 peaceful protesters were arrested for supporting a strike that had been going on since September 15th. In addition there have been over 100 different types of lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart over the years, including one filed by female employees demanding equal pay and promotional opportunities which made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

I have blogged before about Wal-Mart which, as I have said, is a mixed bag. The company does many good things, including support of local charities and showing concern for the environment; they also employ 1.4 million people. But they refuse to allow unions, as noted, and their hourly wages are barely above poverty levels — $12.00 an hour on average which nets the worker $24,960.00 a year, barely $1900.00 above poverty levels for a family of four — guaranteeing that the employee’s spouse will almost certainly also have to work.

The employees are wrong to say that every other major company allows unions, of course, as the example of Whole Foods proves. But companies such as Whole Foods actually do put the employee’s needs first as they have better pay and even profit-sharing for their employees who do appear to like working for the company. So it’s not a question of unions, which are also a mixed bag, it’s about the giant company’s attitude toward its employees — all of them, and not only those at the managerial levels. Talk is cheap, especially when it is riddled with lies. It’s time for Wal-Mart to put its money where its mouth is and treat its employees ethically. The threat of a major strike on “Black Friday” may be the impetus the company needs to do the right thing.

16 thoughts on “Trouble In Wallyworld

  1. Given the most recent report on the wealth of the Wal-Mart “family”…seems they may have been educated on how to make and keep all the money…but obviously missed the bit on sharing.
    A simple premise this sharing thing…isn’t it?

  2. When you examine the shameful percentage of family members of full time Wal-Mart employees who qualify for, and get, their healthcare through Medicaid you see just how much Wall-Mart profit is built upon the backs of taxpayers…. WHO PROVIDE THAT SOCIAL SAFETY NET.

    Wal-Mart…… Another Plutocratic Capitalist scam we would be better off without.

  3. Wal-Mart is the scummiest company in the Hall of Corporate Shame as far as I am concerned. Their destruction of thousands of main streets across this country is legendary, their cavalier attitude towards their employees a disgusting shame. They have been known to lock their employees in the stores overnight, force people to work “off the clock,” allow rampant sex discrimination though out the company, and their relations with suppliers is abusive, at best. It was only the far-right leaning Supreme Court that allowed them to dodge a major bullet in a class action wage suit brought by women employees.

    Their most shameful act, however, was the board of directors action to eliminate profit sharing for their employees, in order for CEO David Duke to be paid a bonus. WM also has the costliest benefit package around, so most employees are offered them, but few can afford to partake, another cost saving for the company.

    I vowed many years ago to never set foot in a WM or Sam’s store, and have never broken it.

    Good piece, Hugh

    • Thanks. You sound like my son and part of me wants to wash my hands of the place, but given our options here in the provinces I am a regular shopper at Wal-Mart. The question I keep asking is: where are the decent stores that treat their employees well? That question befuddles me.


      • Actually, there are several. Kohl’s, Nordstroms, Whole Foods are but a few that treat their employees incredibly well with above average wages and great benefits. For me, the best by far is Costco. Way above average benefits and wages. The founder and chairman has consistently resisted efforts by stockholders and “investors” to cut wages and benefits to return more to stockholders. The founder always replies that the success of Costco is based upon the extra efforts made by employees. I totally agree.

        I’ve been a Costco member for over 20 years. Just yesterday visited the local store to return a shredder I bought in May that broke. Bring in the receipt, and there are no questions asked, other than did I want a store credit or a credit back to my charge card? BTW, I ordered another on line yesterday, and it is being delivered today. Can’t get much better than that.

        I would highly reccommend that you look into Costco. They have a great on-line presence, up to one year return policy, (90 days on electronics) and free shipping and delivery within a few days. (Much faster than Amazon).

        Now that we are both “retired” we do major shopping for food at Costco. Their meats and seafood are incredibly fresh, offer a large selection of organic and free range products. We get all our meats, cheeses, and poultry, and seafood from them. Cut it up into quarters and freeze it. We save by actual count at least 25%, and only have to make the trip every 2-3 months.

        So even if you only spend $10 at Costco, Hugh, that’s $10 thats not going to the life destroyers at Wal Mart.

      • There isn’t a Costco store within 100 mies of me (nor a Kohl’s nor a Nordstrom’s)! You have no idea how remote this part of the world is! But thanks for the information.


  4. What a great idea!! A strike on Black Friday!!! I hope this will finally make a difference. All the good thtings Walmart does does not make up for their abhorant workplace policies, in my opinion

  5. The companies Barney mentions are good choices. Nordstrom’s has their inverted pyramid, where the customer is on top and the shareholders are on the bottom – the premise being if we take care of the customer, the shareholders will make more money.Two others are Wegmans and Lowes. Wegmans is the ideal in supermarkets in how they treat the whole customer experience. The other bigger box stores would love to emulate them. Lowes understands the equation between human capital and revenue success better than many retailers. They know their department leaders teach people how to do things, so people flock to their stores. Walmart’s success is driven by an obsessive supply chain and inventory control mindset. The best thing they do is meet every Saturday morning with their area store managers and ask what is selling and tries to replicate that over and over again. However, Walmart is not known for excellent customer service. They are paying people better than they were after the female class action lawsuit, but could do more. I think many retailers should pay more as we have far too many beneath a living wage. It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds. BTG

  6. Remote? I think I trump you on being remote! Tomorrow I will travel five hours to reach a small mall with an ‘Ace’type hardware store!

    I enjoyed the post and still think you need a radio talk show! It would be great to tune in from this remote yet idyllic setting on the equator!

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