Should Wal-Mart Workers be Thankful for a Non-Living Wage?
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Wednesday, November 21, 2012
In this season of giving thanks, we are again reminded that our neighbors, our friends, our family are abused by corporate overlords who treat their employees as chattel, mere serfs, by the world’s largest retailer, which is headquartered in Arkansas, in the United States of America – land of the free, and home of the brave, land where our fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride.
That is abuse and injustice.
Plain and simple.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
Haven’t we been here before? Remembering the biggest public relations crises in the company’s 50-year history.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that Walmart allegedly covered up an internal investigation proving its Mexican subsidiary bribed officials in the country. The retail giant’s stock fell sharply Monday following the expose. Should the market be really that surprised? Over the years, Walmart has made headlines for behaving badly even as executives work tirelessly to maintain its all-American image. Here, take a look at Walmart’s blunders.
1. Working conditions
In 2005, a California jury awarded $172 million to thousands of workers who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks. The case was one of at least 40 similar suits filed nationwide at the time, alleging workplace violations.
The outcomes of the cases varied, but those that stood in court brought bad news for the company. In 2002, a federal jury in Oregon found Walmart employees were forced to work off the clock and awarded back pay to 83 workers.
2. Quashing unions
Walmart has gone toe-to-toe with workers that tried to organize themselves. The retail giant is infamous for staunchly opposing labor groups. In 2000, it switched to prepackaged meats after a handful of butchers at a Walmart Supercenter in Jacksonville, Texas voted to join a union. The retail giant at the time said the move was planned ahead of the union vote, but it nevertheless sent workers a clear message. And, in 2005, Walmart shut down a store in Quebec where workers were close to reaching a union contract.
It’s not as if Walmart is against all unions — only those in the U.S. As the Washington Post pointed out last year, unions are prevalent in the United Kingdom. And for decades, the retailer has negotiated contracts with powerful labor groups in Brazil and Argentina.
3. Corruption at the top
In 2006,Tom Coughlin, a former vice chairman who worked closely with legendary founder Sam Walton, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion. After an internal investigation that found improper use of gift cards and other expenses, Coughlin admitted he stole thousands of dollars from Walmart to upgrade his truck, buy beer and pay for hunting rights.
Walmart stumped union critics when Coughlin said the reimbursement were for money spent out of pocket for a “union project” aimed at keeping unions out of stores.
In 1996, the retailer stunned the music industry by banning an album by Grammy-winner Sheryl Crow because of a song’s lyrics suggesting that Walmart sells guns to children. Despite Crow’s feel-good image, the chain raised issue with the song, “”Love Is a Good Thing,” costing A&M Records hundreds of thousands of album sales.
6. Health care problems
It couldn’t come at a worse time. High unemployment continued weighing on many families, many only able to find part-time work.Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, cited rising costs when it told employees that all future part-timers who work less than 24 hours a week on average will no longer qualify for any of the company’s health insurance plans.The move represented a marked departure from only a few years ago when Walmart expanded health coverage amid growing criticisms from workers and state governments, including lawmakers in Maryland who in 2005 passed legislation effectively requiring that the company boost health care spending.