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
Nov 21, 2012 3:52PM
American is "The land of the free", and "The home of the indentured servant".. At least thats what it states in the walmart employee handbook.
Nov 21, 2012 3:50PM
working at walmart is virtually being jobless!!!! these people work hard for their money. walmart is already having their products being cheaply made in china and other 3rd world countries. they bring it here and now americans are being forced. tpo sell their products. meanwhile the corporate office and investors who arent ALL AMERICAN are the one enjoying all the benefits. and just like the man in the video said.. IF YOU DONT LIKE THE WORKERS GOING ON STRIKE.. SHOP SOMEWHERE ELSE...
Nov 21, 2012 3:49PM
BTW --- Goodbye J.C. Penney.

It was really nice and humane of you to provide so many "living" wages for so long.

Nov 21, 2012 3:47PM
I love the point she made, that she has rights and aim's to use them to inform others of the problems she and others have witnessed (1st Amend. Good for her!). A worker has the right to voice their opinion, if not I would consider them to be slaves! If a company uses unfair practices to intimidate an employee, then yes, it is broken. Unlike slavery, where you can't quit, Wal-Mart has been brought to court numerous times for unfair practices and inhumane work conditions; overseas and national.If a company uses the tactic of bullying (lawsuits against unions, for attempts to create one) then it is a tale tale sign that something is afoot (history repeating itself).

 Remember, when a U.S. company goes abroad, they are a representation of you. If you have no problem with a company treating humans as nothing more than a drone...without rights, then maybe you should go to work for them (I am only making a point and do not wish you any harm or harm to be inflicted upon you)!

All because a person does not have the education, funds, financial backing (credit), family support, etc., doesn't mean they are lesser than you. That's almost like someone saying, " Orange people deserve what they get because they are not smart! (MESSAGE!)

Yes, some people will be street sweepers, while others will be CEO's. If you treat one differently from the other then you are no better than the racist waving a flag and yells, "We're number one and we will destroy you! (schools, sports, churches, religions, politicians, personal pride , State pride, and even Nationalism) that is against equality, using fear (loss of income) to control, which you have no right too do!.
Please watch the movie "Thrive" to have a better understanding of the latter. We all are important, do not discount the life that has been led astray, or falls into shambles; one day it could be you (MESSAGE).

The system is broken, and people are starting to awake. Good luck and Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Nov 21, 2012 3:47PM
The one thing everyone is missing is how much Wal-Mart helps the people that don't have money with their LOW prices. Wal-Mart is not a place to work for your whole life its a place to get some experience so you can get a higher paying job down the road
Nov 21, 2012 3:45PM
Damn you WalMart !   Raise your G D prices !

People have been saving too much money for too long.

Nov 21, 2012 3:45PM
also we are getting all this crap from China that is inferior product.  Cheap price, cheap goods, all made possible by a cheap family.  There is power in the people if we only stick together against this war on the middle class and lower income level folks.  You hit them back in the pocket book in a concerted effort and watch em all crumble.
Nov 21, 2012 3:45PM

Wal mart is not the only company to pay its employees low wages, but as noted in the article, it's the largest private sector employer in the U.S. to do so.  As well, Target offers competitive prices while providing a better work envionment for its employees.  I do not work for Target, I just have a real distain for Walmart.  Wal mart engages in underhanded, clandestine activites in relation to its employees.  For example, Wal mart took out life insurance policies on some of its employees, I would guess mostly elderly, and DID receive funds in relation to the policies.  Now I think this explains why the greeters (which they really are not, they are there to check your receipt in an attempt to deter theft) are all elderly.  The funny thing is, Wal mart stated that the funds were to be used to provide health care for its other employees.  Read the following article for yourself, don't let me make up your mind. 

Nov 21, 2012 3:44PM
I love Walmart.  


Probably been photographed there too... Which one "is" you?

http ://www.peopleofwalmart.com/photos/

Nov 21, 2012 3:43PM
Nov 21, 2012 3:43PM
Theres a lot of retired people that would love to work part time to make ends meet. so i hope they do strike. the only ones getting hurt will be their own famillies with no christmas this year.
Nov 21, 2012 3:42PM
If everyone shopped local it would benefit their local economy by helping small businesses stay afloat as well as keeping the dollars within their own community.  The Wal-Mart myth is that you can find anything you need cheap.  The Wal-Mart reality is that you can find everything cheap but it's not really saving you any money.  The consumer may save a few dollars in the short run by buying all that imported crap from China, but in the long run it is the consumer who is paying for all of that government assistance for Wal-Mart employees with their tax dollars.  Oh, and as for shopping on Thanksgiving Day... corporate greed indeed.      
Nov 21, 2012 3:42PM
I wont shop there this Xmas, I wish I could, but not on the backs of others. Dont let the greed win!
Nov 21, 2012 3:41PM
The only thing I buy at wal mart is  " Iams Dog food"  This is done once a month.  I purposely shop any where else for other needs. This corporation has all but killed small business in this great country. I hope the UNIONS get and KEEP a FOOT hold in the WAL MART chain. I might start shopping there if they do?
Nov 21, 2012 3:41PM
Time for big corporations to pay their fair share too.   Greedy family!
Nov 21, 2012 3:40PM
Nov 21, 2012 3:40PM
..just did some research to confirm what I thought-the STANDARD for corporations of Walmart size is medical benefits for FULL  time workers and thier families-usually 32 hours or more but varies. The article alledges they are not doing that. Why? To make even more money...while we eventually pay the medical bils for their workers through public aid or government subsidized insurance...we'll have plenty more medical to pay for in 2014 through O'Bamacare...force Walmart to foot the bill for medical for THEIR full time employees.
Nov 21, 2012 3:38PM
I worked for walmart in Colorado and I can personally say that management bullies and harass their employees for any and every little reason and then they try to tell them that they have to work late after checking out for the day without letting them to check back.   
Nov 21, 2012 3:38PM

There are many good points in the comments below.  And, Wal-Mart is not the only corporation to offer employees low wages, but it is the largest to do so, as noted in the article it's the largest private sector employer in the U.S.  Folks, read other articles and look at other findings, Target has been noted as having even lower prices than many products offered at Wal Mart.  I am not employed by Target, but have a huge distain for Walmart.  The thing I find most disturbing is that Walmart engages in underhanded,  clandestine activites in relation to its employees.  Walmart use to take out life insurance policies on its employees without their knowlege or consent.  The funny thing is, Walmart stated that these life insurance policies and the receipt of their funds (which they did receive) were to be used to provide more health benefits to its employees.  Here is the link to the article:    Don't let me make up your mind, read and decide for yourself. 

Nov 21, 2012 3:37PM
Walmart is a perfect example of the real problem in America. They are one of the biggest recipients of WELFARE in America. Walmart is no different then a women with 20 kids who is looking to have more, and always has her hand out.. I SAY STRIKE!!!  Hit the corporate devils where it hurts!!!
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