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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628Comments
Nov 21, 2012 2:09PM
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If you don't like the pay, apply for a job somewhere else, it's very simple... That's how things work in a capitalist society.. Freedom of choice in the FREE MARKET. The Union keep complaining because they want the income from annual Union Dues that would be given to them from all the Walmart employees across the U.S...
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 2:08PM
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remember, walmart workers are not union thugs. they have no right to strike. so when they do return to work, they will be fired and replaced with someone who is willing to work for $8/hr which is what they are worth! newsflash: working @ walmart is a low skill job. low skill jobs get paid low wages. dont like it? leave. dont like working on thanksgiving? dont work @ walmart! 
Nov 21, 2012 2:08PM
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I used to work for Wal-Mart.  I also used to work for Target, Lowes and Sears.  They are all the same.  Low wages, horrible benefits and I had to work holidays.  Target was the lowest pay at $6.50 an hour.  Lowes paid the best starting pay at $8.50 an hour. 
Nov 21, 2012 2:08PM
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Wal Mart has a choke hold on small town america. It is a disgrace. I remember not long ago when my hometown had clothing stores, hardware stores, electronic stores, etc. The prices were higher sure, but the stores paid an honest wage and took care of their people. People worked harder as a result. The communitiy as a whole was stronger as a result. Don't let the "low price" BS fool you. For all their low priced items, they have other items that are priced at or above local store prices, especially groceries. If you have a chance, read the book "The Wal Mart Effect".  

Nov 21, 2012 2:07PM
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Most companies pay well below $13 per hour for part time workers. How many offer any benefits for part time employees.  If you apply for a job in a retail environment, it is common knowledge that it is mandatory that you work the holidays.  That is when the largest sales volume is. Raise wages, raise prices, less staff.  Seems like a trend.  Don't expect the CEO's to give up their wages.
Nov 21, 2012 2:07PM
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Wow  would it really kill these companies to close on Thanksgiving and Christmas So That families can share the holidays..
The companies can claim it is to serve the customers, But in truth it is to improve their bottom line.
And anybody who believes that they are getting any great deals shopping at these ridiculous hours are naive. 
Their not saving you any money. The only thing they are achieving by opening on these two Holidays are improving their overall profit margin in the fourth quarter. and denying families time together.
Americans are stupid, greedy and care nothing about their fellow Americans. As long as we all get what is important to us. Hooray for me to hell with you. 
Really I will not shop at anyplace that opens On Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Is that flat screen that important that it cannot wait one more day. F22ck Corporate America, And 
to all you who will be giving me thumbs down or what not I really do not give a sh2t. Their are certain people who NEED to work on these days. Fire personnel, EMT'S Police officers, Hospital workers.  Caregivers,  But retail workers, and restaurant workers please that is just pure American Greed at it's finest.
Nov 21, 2012 2:06PM
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Walmart always treated employees bad. I do not shop there and none ofmy friends do either. We shop at target and Kmart
Nov 21, 2012 2:04PM
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Any business that takes local community profits and removes them from the state, while having wages so low that many States have to augment them with tax-funded healthcare help is a blight on our society!

 

The Walton family, who inherited the wealth, has shown no fealty to America as it provides millions of jobs......... in slave labor China, that allow them to hide the profits in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands in LLC's set up to dodge American taxes!

 

These Walton siblings (greedmisers) refuse to allow a union to negotiate better wages for their workers, while WalMart makes 40 per cent of all of the wealth in the United States today!

 

For the Walton Family, who have billions of dollars, to have slaves making less that 25 cents an hour, making products for 18 cents of labor, while selling them to our consumers for 12 to 15 dollars, leads any sane person to wonder why the Waltons are so against meeting the requests of the unions for better pay, better healthcare, and better retirement plans! How much profit is enough?

 

Our response, in the general public, should be to support the workers and shun shopping at Wal-Mart until they begin to manufacture products in the United States again, while we can only hope that our government ban legislate continued efforts to reign in the trade deficit by leveling the playing field for our manufacturers and stop the product dumping by WalMart! 

Nov 21, 2012 2:01PM
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I won't be shopping at Walmart for this holiday season or any other time. I've decided to shop at small businesses only. I have friends who work in Walmart and on food stamps because after these greedy slae drivers take out healthcare, taxes, sexism, racism on promotions, they and get back some of that when you shop there, you come out with nothing. Yes, they give their employees a 10% discount. And all the Waltons are on the Forbes billionaire list with insane amounts of money. How much money does one need to truly live well honestly? I am sure not billions. Sad.
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 1:59PM
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How many people here who say things like "fire them if they don't show up" have ever worked at Walmart?

Not many? What a surprise.

As a former vendor for Walmart, I can tell you they treat their workers like garbage. I saw people who cared a lot more than their managers and yet got told they were bad employees and denied raises or hours every evaluation period. These aren't jobs folks, they're corporate slave positions.Those workers can't afford to live, and WE subsidize the cost to the tune of $1B a year.

Don't even get me started on the things they did to me as supplier, which caused my company to lay off workers.

I find it ironic that the right-wing types here have no problem with this. I thought welfare was a bad thing? I guess it's ok if it's welfare to support the richest family in the world's business.

Shop on morons and keep helping to destroy the country you claim to love so much.

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 1:57PM
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If it were that bad, no one would work there.  If consumers were really upset, no one would shop there.  Natural selection would kill off the business if it really was that bad.  So, either it is not that bad or we are all idiots.
Nov 21, 2012 1:56PM
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-Abraham Lincoln

Fear is the greatest motivator of a capitalist; hope and love are the greatest motivators to humanity. - TLMIII
Nov 21, 2012 1:54PM
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V_L - How is Walmart un-American?  The company provides a huge variety of products that are affordable to the middle and lower classes.  What is more American than that?  Walmart in effect increases the disposable income of its shoppers, a far more effective tool than any tax credit or government handout.  Next time think before you speak.
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 1:53PM
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First Wal-Mart, then ObamaCare...... back to flea market clinics and outpatient surgery at the corner motel....
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This couple epitomizes the average WalMart worker, too dumb to face the fact that their lack of skills in a time of rampant unemployment puts them in the "gladly  taught a lesson" contingency.

These idiots claim "something is broken", LOL, in one of the biggest and most successful companies on the planet, well, YES SOMETHING IS BROKEN AND IT IS YOU, broke in the sense of being unemployed during the holidays when there are literally millions waiting to take your job!

BTW, in a job that is almost all physical, I would never hire a couple of fatties like them, too many chances to get hurt or never be adaptable to actually doing ANYTHING physical.

Nov 21, 2012 1:51PM
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Chinamart deserves the Unions and labor problems.
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