Wal-Mart workers prepare to strike

The company faces uncomfortable questions about how it treats employees ahead of the important holiday season.

By Jonathan Berr Nov 21, 2012 12:32PM
The planned strike this week by workers at Wal-Mart (WMT) couldn't come at a worse time for the world's largest retailer.

It is under pressure from Wall Street to improve its lackluster sales ahead of the important holiday season. Wal-Mart, the country's largest private-sector employer, has battled efforts by unions to organize its workforce for years, and has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board to stop the labor action aided by the United Food and Commercial Workers International.   Media reports say that a decision by the NLRB isn't expected before Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday.   Union-backed OUR Walmart, has fired back at the company, accusing it of "illegally attempting to deter workers from participating in strikes against the world's largest retailer on Friday," according to Reuters.
But even if it wins the latest battle, the Bentonville, Ark., company may lose the war over the long term as tries to protect its brand.

The company brags about its low prices. But many shoppers probably don't think much about how Wal-Mart makes this slogan a reality, which may start happening given the publicity the strike is getting. The average Wal-Mart associate earns about $8.81 an hour, or a yearly wage of about $15,500, meaning that hundreds of thousands of the company's workers live below the poverty line, according to unions. Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Our Walmart is seeking wages of $13 per hour, and is calling on the company to make full-time jobs available for employees who want them. The company disputes these characterizations and says on its website that it offers "competitive wages, good benefits and the chance to grow and build a career."

States worried about the growing costs of Medicaid have pressued Wal-Mart for years to improve worker benefits. In response, the company offered some benefits to those working less than 24 hours per week, only to reverse course last year and decree that new part-time employees would no longer get benefits and that people working 24 hours to 33 hours a week can no longer include their spouses in their coverage, though children are allowed.

Data from unions indicates that Wal-Mart employees are the largest recipients of government assistance among those that are employed in a huge number of states. That means that taxpayers are on the hook for these benefits to the tune of more than $1 billion.

Though it's unlikely the strike will put a dent in Wal-Mart's profits, some customers may start to wonder whether the company's low prices are worth the costs born by its employees.

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks.  Story is updated to provide details on the possible timing of a strike. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.


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Tags: WMT
628Comments
Nov 21, 2012 1:24PM
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Our family has always tried to help make the Holidays good for everyone, including workers stranded behind counters and cash registers instead of home with family and/or friends. We DO NOT Patronize ANY business or entity on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years,  Easter, or Labor Day (except Churches). If We-The-Customer stay away and boycott businesses on Holidays, the message will be much clearer than any Union or disgruntled  employee's efforts. Just Stay Away!
Nov 21, 2012 1:38PM
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Consider, the walmart employees that are working 35 to 40 hours a week making about $8/hour for roughly 52 weeks/year, gives an annual salary of $15,000 with limited to no benefits. Now, Walmart claims that it is offering things a low prices. But now factor in that we (the people who pay taxes) have to subsidize those in-need. We are really subsidizing Walmart, more specifically, since we are subsidizing the cost of living of the underpaid walmart workers, and the prime beneficiary of low wages are the upper management and shareholders of Walmart, we are in essence giving corporate welfare. So, following that logic, Walmart is yet another beneficiary of corporate welfare, albeit in a veiled form. And we the people are being charge a hidden tax by the lack of acceptable wages. 

 
Nov 21, 2012 1:36PM
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To be honest Walmart is not the only retailer that pays their employees that way as well asnot giving benefits to part-time associates....the only difference is that Walmart is very well known.
Nov 21, 2012 1:00PM
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richest family in the world can't pay their workers a decent wage?
Nov 21, 2012 1:48PM
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It's not just WalMart who doesn't pay their employees( and keeps their pay below proverty level,) how about k mart and target just to name a couple. 
Nov 21, 2012 12:59PM
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It's about time. Could there be anything more anti-American than Wal-Mart and their insane business model? Wal-Mart forces themselves into communities. Local small businesses cannot compete and end up working for this pariah business for peanuts. History will show that Wal-Mart contributed more to the downward slide of America than any other entity. If the strike is not met with instant cooperation by direct management (not the retained Law Goons), then SHUT IT DOWN. If stalling continues-- DIVEST THEM. We can re-purpose their big boxes or dismantle them and use the materials to restore Main Street. What kind of demonic anti-American invests in a nation killer?
Nov 21, 2012 1:03PM
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Wal Marts profits=SCREW THEIR LOW LEVEL EMPLOYEES !  HAPPY BLACK FRIDAY WAL MART ENJOY YOUR PROFITS' ! MADE IN CHINA =LOWEST POSSIBLE QUALITY TO CONSUMERS AND MAXIMUM PROFIT FOR THE COMPANY !

Nov 21, 2012 2:29PM
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In my 35 years of working in the hospitality business (restaurants and hotels) and  I've had a job since I was 15 and never taken a handout, I've had to work holidays and have ALWAYS been thankful to have a job. People need gas, food, a place to stay and businesses need people to be able to employ loyal hard working employees. I would LOVE to give my staff the day off tomorrow, but guest need us. They came to visit families, have sick family members in the hospital and are traveling to be with friends and family. So we work...they will need to eat while they are here and need gas and personal items as well. You don't have to go shopping, and you don't have to work either. But, if your job requires it of you, do it. Thanksgiving can be any day, anytime. It can be at lunch if you work at night, or dinner if you work in the morning and it can be Friday or Saturday. It's a day to be thankful! So be flexible and be thankful you still have a job. (Don't forget to send thanks to all of our Military, still fighting for us in Afganistan...they'll be doing their job on Thanksgiving as well!!!)

Nov 21, 2012 1:50PM
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Hell, I have been working at my manufacturing job for 7 years and make $13 per hour. There is no way a service worker should get that.

All the unions (socialist based criminals) are trying to do is bring down the most successful businesses in America. Just got Hostess, now they want Walmart.

No one is forcing those people to work there. We have been trying to find quality workers for our facility for years. Two things impede that. The high cost of raw materials and there just is not a huge number of quality people out there to choose from. They show up to work and expect to get a pay check for no or minimal output. It is really sad that the only people that are REALLY willing to work are those that are my age, 45-65. Even a lot of those are just here for the check.

Bottom line it is our governments money policy that is causing all of these money woes, NOT the employers.

Nov 21, 2012 1:37PM
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I do not always agree with Walmart's policies...but I don't agree with unions either!  I mean they are a "for profit" company.  With jobs so scarce..I am sure there are people out there that would just like to have a job !! As with Hostess...if they can't make money ...they close.  Then where will the people on strike be?  In the unemployment line with the Hostess workers...wishing they had their Walmart job back !
Nov 21, 2012 2:00PM
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Wow ! They chose the brightest crayons in the box to speak for walmart. With as many people that are out of work in this country these guys are TOTAL A$$E$.

 

The amount that a $8 an hour employee makes in one week exceeds the anual income of 98% of the worlds population.

Thank God our soldiers,Sailors,and Airmen don't "strike" because they work under horrible conditions ,on holidays,weekends,in crappy weather. Oh and by the way walmart employees don't have people trying to kill them on the most part.

Get off your FAT,LAZY, A$$E$. If you don't like where you work...quit,find another job.

 

 

Nov 21, 2012 1:48PM
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Raise wages.................raise prices.................

your choice...are you willing to pay more so they can make more?????I think not...that is why we shop there in the first place.Sorry ,but true...if they go out,,,do you think they will?? the retired guy greeting you,,,or the register girl just making ends meet???.

If you want to make more you need to get a different job...sorry again my friends,but true

 

Nov 21, 2012 1:50PM
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The situation at Hostess is a cautionary tale for workers trying to squeeze management.  Only after liquidation became the only option did union leaders realize their folly. "We did not realize the situation was that bad." was the direct quote.

Nov 21, 2012 1:41PM
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If they don't like it let them get a education and a skill set so they can get a different job. If I had a job that required me to work on Thanksgiving or Christmas I would do it. At least they have a job. There are a lot of people out there that don't and are willing to work. This country is becoming one of entitlement. Remember people years ago people worked 6 days a week 10 hours a day and where happy to have a job.
Nov 21, 2012 1:59PM
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Take a look at the twinkie workers and ask them how listening to the thug union helped them out of a job.  Or take a look at the hundreds of thousands of auto workers who will never get their jobs back.  And the list goes on and on. 

 

Unions only destroy companies and jobs by protecting the lazy and promoting inefficient business practices in their contracts.  The only place left for unions is in government.  There they can't drive government into bankruptcy.  Government just raises taxes to pay for it.  But their day of reckoning is fast approaching.

Nov 21, 2012 1:40PM
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Need a Job?  No high school, no college Walmart will higher you.  You just have to be OK working on holidays.  they will be posting job positions on Friday.
Nov 21, 2012 1:53PM
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4 of the 10 Richest People in America are Wal-Mart Heirs: (see Forbes 2012)

 

Christy Walton & Family

Jim Walton

Alice Walton

S. Robson Walton

 

And, $1B passed along to taxpayers for under-insured and non-insured employees unable to pay for coverage because they are simply already AT the poverty line.  These are obviously people who are actually willing to WORK.  But, for Americans to 'save a dime' - it comes at what expense????

Add to this the fact that Wal-Mart pulled the biggest scam on this country when it launched as a Proud MADE IN THE USA company and has now become just one big Chinese Warehouse.  Stop shopping at Wal-Mart Period.  Or, blame yourself.

Nov 21, 2012 2:17PM
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Anyone in the retail business knows that you have to work on a holidays, it's not just Wal-Mart.  If you don't like it, get another job. They are not being targeted in that sense.  Maybe they are way underpaid, who am I to argue that, but that is the job you excepted.  You went through the interview process and agreed to the terms of your pay when "you" the employee agreed to take the job.  I myself have had jobs that I didn't like the terms, so what did I do, I was proactive for myself and found another job.  It is not the only job in your town, just get out there and look.  If you complain to me that it has to do with your education level, who's fault is that.  I do not have a college degree and I was able to go out and get a decent job, and oh wait, I have a part time job as well just have some extra bucks in my pocket. Stop being lazy and blaming everyone else for the position you hold and wanting us to feel bad for you.  I certainly don't feel bad because again, I have what I want because I did something about it.  I don't expect people to feel bad for me because I don't have a wonderful paying job, so I went out and got myself 2 jobs so I can live alright.
Nov 21, 2012 2:09PM
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I would like to say something. There are many other people in many other professions that have to work on holidays. In this economy, I really feel people should feel grateful to have a job at all. I once worked for Walmart as did my brother. We never felt that the company treated its employees poorly. I also felt that the pay was competitive. It is a retail job. It does not require a high school diploma or a GED. I supported my family for four years on a Walmart salary. If you want higher pay, go to school, get an education, and aspire to do more for yourself. 
Nov 21, 2012 1:47PM
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I see some people post "Fire them all" or something along that line. Think this through, when you fire them, they become unemployed. This results in a few things:
1) Tax payers have to subsidize these people
2) These people have little in terms of options, which will encourage them to commit crimes
3) a boost in unemployment means that the available labor market becomes further inflated, which if you treat labor like a supply and demand relationship, pushes the demand down, hence keeping wages low. Why pay you more for your work, when there are many more who can (maybe) do your job? 
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