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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635Comments
Nov 21, 2012 4:33PM
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The federal minimum wage is $7.25/ hour. If Wal-Mart is in compliance with this standard then where is the problem. This article states that they pay an average wage of $8.81 which is $1.56/hour more than they are required to pay. I am aware that certain states have higher minimum wages than the federal level and this may be the reason for the higher average but they still pay every employee at least the minimum per hour. For those of you who say the taxpayers are subsidizing Wal-Mart, then they are subsidizing every other company that pays the minimum wage including a lot of small family owned businesses that you use as the example to villianize Wal-Mart. By this standard we are subsidizing just about every unskilled labor or service related job. If you truly feel that people should be paid more, then lobby your elected representatives to increase the federal minimum wage but be aware that this will lead to a overall increase in all consumer goods based on the  laws of economics. The hard truth of the matter is that it is easy to say Wal-Mart is a big evil company because they have been successful at managing their business model efficiently and meeting consumers need but in reality they do the same thing as just about every other business in america just on a larger scale. If you want to be employed full time at a living wage you need to attain skills that are valued and people are willing to pay for. 

Nov 21, 2012 4:33PM
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If people don't want to work at Wal mart then they should quit Walmart.  I did an found a better job because of it.  I didn't cry or complain, it's not my company.
Nov 21, 2012 4:32PM
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ITs time for WalMart to divy up more than minimum wage ....some benefits....better hours...more personnel and an overall better work environment.......YOU have to PAY for that HAPPY FACE!

 

We all do...............They are Making more money than they can spend in 20 LIFETIMES. Its time to cut the WORKERS in on some of that EXCESS.......you know the folks that .......DO ALL the WORK...some BENNYS its only FAIR..........WalMart Customers are VERY demanding especially this time of year.......pay these folks for PUTTING up With US.

Nov 21, 2012 4:32PM
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When you apply and accept a position with any company you are made aware of your pay and benefits. If you are not happy look for work else where. It is that simple.
Nov 21, 2012 4:26PM
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We need to have some good old fashion country style cock fighting entertainment with these big corporations.

Just let Wal-Mart start its own bank and branch at will into its stores.

Watch the fireworks when Wall Street screams foul at that sucking noise of their retail customer base.

Nov 21, 2012 4:25PM
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The richest  company in the world will not keep paying high taxes and high wages,   The union is going to kill the country because you can't keep asking for high pay, the ecomony has to come down for folks to live on. Think about this. Mininum wages raised so will the food. How do you think china is doing it? lower wages! Higher on the pay and ecoomony will not solve this solution! walmart will start laying off!  Also there should be a law in the country, if you work full time hours and your partime employee you should get full time benefits..
Nov 21, 2012 4:23PM
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I'm sick & tired of hearing Walmart workers bitching.  If you don't like it then quit. Striking helps no one, what you loose in a strike you never gain back, and neither does the company you strike.  Wait till Obamacare kicks in you will get less than you are getting now.
Nov 21, 2012 4:23PM
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Hey Walmart employees.

 

Why don't you ask one of the 18,500 Hostess employees how their strike went?

 

8% pay cut?

 

"Nah, I'd rather take a 100% cut, thanks."

 

Merry Christmas........ you're fired.

Nov 21, 2012 4:21PM
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All of you freakin bleeding heart, lazy a#$ liberals will never be satisfied until you bring this country to its knees in one big socialist tsunami. If you don't like it, don't work there. If you disagree with them, don't shop there. Take you pink a#$ commie union loving business else where. And just let those who believe in work, capitalism and propering alone. I sincerely wish we could just divide this nation into two seperate countries. All union loving illegal alien supporting socialists could have one country of their own. And the rest of us could have ours to live in propsperity and peace. Guess which one would would prosper, and which would turn into a third worls craphole in one generation?

Nov 21, 2012 4:20PM
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It will do no good, unless the WalMart customers BOYCOTT WalMart in support of their employees!!

We, the 99% American People, WANT WalMart to PROSPER, but we want them to share it with their employees! The Waltons can't take it with them to NEVER, NEVER LAND, so why not share it????

Nov 21, 2012 4:19PM
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I realize that we have always celebrated Thanksgiving in years past. But these people should be glad to have a job. Wall Mart has every right to have these people work as long as they give them time off at another time! Now, if Wall Mart is not doing that then I can see their beef.
Nov 21, 2012 4:18PM
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What a bunch of cry babies these Wal-Mart workers are being brainwashed by the Unions, which is not hard to do, the majority of them are service workers, if they cant make it on 15k a year then they need a second job, or a better job, no wait there are not that many jobs out there, but if they were to get their 13.00 dollars and hour after taxes a big chunk of it would go to union dues, i know many factory workers and trade workers with years of experience making 10 - 13 an hour what makes the service workers at wal mart think they are worth 13.00 an hour,Wal Mart has a long list of people that will go to work for them ASAP , AND IF THAT DOES NOT WORK THEY CAN DO WHAT GROCERY STORES ALL ACROSS THE USA DO AND THAT IS HIRE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS, THEY WILL GLADLY WORK FOR 8.81 AN HOUR AND NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT WORKING HOLIDAYS AND WAL MART CAN PICK FROM SOME VERY BRIGHT KIDS THAT APPLY FOR THE JOBS MANY ARE HONOR STUDENTS. I DO NOT HEAR PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT THE GROCERY INDUSTRY USING HIGH SCHOOL KIDS FOR YEARS TO KEEP COST DOWN, WHEN IT COMES TO WAL MART THERE IS ALWAYS A DOUBLE STANDARD, AND I WILL BET TOP DOLLAR THAT MOST OF THE PEOPLE COMPLAINING ARE LIBERALS AND VOTED FOR SANTA CLAUSE IN THE WHITE HOUSE OBAMA. 
Nov 21, 2012 4:18PM
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I work or Publix, our wages are nearly twice walmarts, are benefits are fantastic, our health insurance is above average at a reasonable cost, we are much more career oriented than walmart. Our reputation is much better than walmart's we are very commmunity dedicated. We are consistently a fortune 100 company, why can't Walmart meet publix's plans and still be immensely profitable?
Nov 21, 2012 4:18PM
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It's time Americans wake up,These corporations are giving the CEO's the big buck's and letting the little people live below poverty,They don't care,Boycott these companies that are open during the holidays so the employees cane be with their families.Stand together people.
Nov 21, 2012 4:18PM
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As one person said the aver hr wage is bout 9$ / hr BUT most employees only get 32 hrs or less a week. and unless you work 34 or more your spouse isnt covered by insurance. ALSO if one works thanksgiving they get paid for the holiday at a pro rated amount (ie if ur aver weekly hrs is 32 you get 32/40 pay, about 6 hrs for the day

But then you are scheduled an extra day off so no one  ever gets any overtime.

walmart also says they pay profit sharing!!!! !THATS A LIE profit sharing is done store by store depending on that stores profit. I know of a store that never got a profit share for over 6 yrs.

Nov 21, 2012 4:17PM
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If you do not want to make 8 dollars an hour than don't work at Wal-Mart - period. That is what a cashier/shelf stocker makes, if you would like to make more pick a new profession.
Nov 21, 2012 4:15PM
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did you see how dude back tracked?? first he said he couldnt comment  on whether or not the workers who would walk off would be fired... then when they asked again he somewhat answered.. what a hypocrite. I used to work for wal-mart so did my husband and my mother does now too. She has to work on thursday night from 9:45 pm til 6:45 am friday then come back at 3 pm on friday  evening! I remember working blitz as a photo center dept manager and almost being crushed against my camera bar due to all teh mayhem!. GIVE THEM THE FULL DAY OFF ON THURSDAY! DOES WALMART NOT REMEMBER WHAT THANKSGIVING IS ALL ABOUT? FAMILY, FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD AND GIVING THANKS NOT TRAMPLING EACH OTHER FOR A CHEAP TOY OR TV THE SAME NIGHT!.
Nov 21, 2012 4:13PM
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Maybe Wal-Mart should consider starting a fund inside each store to raise money to pay their employees more.  They can have a "donation" option for every customer when they check out.  I wonder how much money they would raise?

Nov 21, 2012 4:13PM
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Boy a lot of you people, are mean, selfish, smug, creepy people.  Don't any of you have an ounce of compassion, in you for others.  Why should anyone have to be paid less than some states minimum wage.  If we all made more money, than it would not matter, if the prices were higher.  We would all have more money, and the economy will thrive.  The companies, like Walmart, will still make a lot of profit, by being a better, more caring company.  No one should have to put up with being poorly paid, or treated.  Costco, pays union wages, and excellent benefits, and they are very profitable, and have made it very well through the recession.  They do it by treating their customers, and employees well.  I hope none of you selfish, smug, people, loses your jobs, or gets disabled, or gets in money difficulties.  We used to be a compassionate country, that cared for each other, and now we have a bunch of you guys.  As a Christian, I am ashamed that some of you probably even call yourself a Christian, but you are not. 
Nov 21, 2012 4:12PM
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Those employees should be VERY GREATFUL for having a job , especially when alot of people lost theirs!!!!
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