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 2:50PM
Hang the Walton family. Sell their damned paintings. Give the company to the employees!
Nov 21, 2012 2:50PM



These employees are NOT forced to work there.


This is a Walmart job, have you been there? Have you seen the job that most do? It is not the most strenuous job. Typical union opinion, pay a worker more than they should be paid for the job they do.



Nov 21, 2012 2:49PM
I find it hard to belive that people thast work at Wal-Mart complain about it and people on Obma's dole don't and yet the ones on the dole live better than most people I see nice houses new cars ect sounds like something is realy wrong here !
Nov 21, 2012 2:47PM
Walmart forces NO ONE to work for them.  If you don't like their wages and benefits, get a job somewhere else. 
Nov 21, 2012 2:46PM

There is no end to the ignorance of Americans in this country's unions.


I have NEVER heard from a union puke " I AM HAPPY TO JUST HAVE A JOB".


These idiots NEVER learn, fire them all and hire Americans who want a job.


I have heard some of these wastes saying "I don't get paid enough", NOBODY FORCES YOU TO WORK THERE. Get a job somewhere else.


This is how I see it:


The Asian Outlet Center employees have 2 choices:


1) Work like a slave for a half-emply belly, or


2) Quit & live with a completely empty belly.

Nov 21, 2012 2:44PM

This country fought a war to end slavery....Walmart needs to remember this!

Nov 21, 2012 2:44PM
Its a business.  They work there voluntarily.  If you don't like it, go get yourself a different job.  The reality is, a goodly portion of Wal-Mart workers couldn't get work anywhere else.  Be grateful for what you have.
Nov 21, 2012 2:43PM
I almost never buy anything there unless I'm in a bind.  I'd rather patronize a local small business, even if it costs more.
Nov 21, 2012 2:43PM
Wow.....You are going to walk away from a job that is willing to pay holiday pay in this economy . A lot of us are out of work and would give our eye teeth to have a job and be able to support our families. I don't know how many holidays our family had to reschedule for a day later because some of us had to work. I think everyone needs to be thankful for what they have and not be so selfish.
Nov 21, 2012 2:42PM
This is almost laughable I mean do these people really think they are entitled to this amount of pay with no education. They should be thankful that there are employers like Walmart that give them a job and the opportunity to provide for their families. If you want a better career go to school and get a degree. Oh that would be to much hard work and sacrifice when you can just try to railroad your employer into giving it to you. There are people out there with real skills and a degree that don't make that much a hour.
Nov 21, 2012 2:42PM
Walmart's business model has and always will be to have a majority of their employees work part-time and a small minority work full-time. This is so they can keep their costs down by not providing those costly benefits like health insurance and 401k's, vacations. By having a business model structured like they do they keep consumer prices lower so all of thrifty buyers can go spend our money like there is no tomorrow. NOW all you Obama Care lovers will see a lot more of this type of business model in the future as companies will use it to skirt around the new law so all the little people will be on the hook to buy the coverage on their own. GREAT care system we allowed to pass....that 30 million Obama and the Democrats wanted to take care of will know be 3 times that many within 3 years.....
Nov 21, 2012 2:41PM
Might be hard being in line with protesters/strikers...Guess they will be the ones carrying SIGNS..?
Nov 21, 2012 2:41PM

These Wal-Mart employees knowingly and willingly accepted a job that required employees to work holidays. The employees also knew that that included "Black Friday" 24 hours. Those that don't work as scheduled should be immediately terminated and barred from being re-hired under ANY circumstances. A company pays their employees a wage that the employee knows before their 1st day of work. They are informed about any benefits that are available, so they have absolutely no to complain. A company is created for the purpose of making a profit for those that took the risk to open the business. The owners should not and are required to give ANY PERCENTAGE OF PROFITS to their employees. These Wal-Mart employees are delusional if they start listening to the propaganda from their Organized Crime Syndicate known as a Union. They should learn from the Union representing the Bakers at Hostess that put 18,000+ jobs on the Unemployment Line. Anyone Company buying Hostess will not and is not "required" to hire Union Employees. I would take the Company to Mexico or Canada and tell the Unions to seek assistance from O'Bama to support the 18,000 they made unemployed.

Nov 21, 2012 2:41PM
Education...Education....Education everyone is talking about the "executives" making high dollars and driving luxury cars and etc.... if those $7.00 hr people would have furthered their education or were to further it now, the would not be working for such a little wage. In this economy, a good job isn't just handed to anyone, everyone has to work for what they want in life! Going on strike on the busiest holiday weekend is not how to get more money people-but then again, if you had a better education you'd already know that!
Nov 21, 2012 2:37PM
I have almost always worked on the Holidays.  Last year was the first Christmas I have had off in 10 years.  We all have to do what it is to work and provide for our families and selves.  Usually I do get time and a half or double time, so it makes it a little easier.  I know this is not always how it goes, and I have also worked/got paid straight time.  Quit winning and be happy to have a job.
Nov 21, 2012 2:36PM

I am a firm believer that a job is a job.  Be grateful you have one and do what you need to do to keep it and possibly expand your skillset............

............On the other hand, I also believe that there is nothing more important than family.  I come from a corporate mindset therefore I completely understand what Wal- Mart is coming from.  But for God sakes, let them be with their families. 

If an employee wants more money then they need to improve their value to the company. The days of giving one a pay raise base on years of service are over. In today's market pay increases come with increases in skill level/value to the company. In short either increase your value to the employer and promote or expect to receive the same pay.
Nov 21, 2012 2:36PM
here's a novel idea - shop small local stores...mom and pop stores in your home town. Let them strike! Support your local economy not China's
Nov 21, 2012 2:35PM
If managers have the ability to negotiate wages, why can't workers? What's the difference? Why shouldn't America support the workers who crafted this nation as much as America rewards those who take the profits and hide them in off-shore tax shelters?
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