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 3:47PM
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.      
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!!!
Nov 21, 2012 3:36PM
We do the whole turkey and family thing on Thanksgiving.  I do open on certain holidays because I am a small business owner.  I do not have any employees.  Thanksgiving day, Christmas day, July 4th and Easter we close.  That is it.  The other holidays are some of the biggest days of the year for sales and for small business are crucial to staying in business in the current economy.
Nov 21, 2012 3:36PM
Wait. I thought the "job creators" were only gonna start firing people or paying them less than a living wage if taxes go up? Guess there's no sense in waiting till the last minute.
Nov 21, 2012 3:35PM

If Walmart is forced to take in a Union, I will not shop there.  If the employees are not happy with $8 per hour, improve their skills and get a better job.

Nov 21, 2012 3:35PM
Wal-Mart is simply GREEDY.  I fully support the workers. Wal-Mart exploits these poor folks.
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