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Employees at 1,000 Walmart stores across the country are planning to strike on Black Friday. The holiday period industrial action comes in the wake of a string of strikes by Walmart workers in several states and involving employees throughout the retailer’s supply chain. AsJosh Eidelson noted at the Nation, “seafood workers [went on strike] in June, [followed] by warehouse workers in September, and by 160 retail workers in twelve states last month.”
“Black Friday,” wrote Eidelson, “workers have pledged — barring concessions from the company — will bring their biggest disruptions yet.” Walmart employees across the country have a host of grievances including unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, sexual harassment, excessive hours, forced labor and low pay. Ned Resnikoff at MSNBC flagged a leaked internal document (first obtained by HuffPo) that revealed that base pay at Walmart’s Sam’s Place stores can be as low as $8 an hour (or $16,000 per year), with wage increases in increments as low as 20 or 40 cents per hour. To put this in context, Gawker recently highlighted a Demos study that says that raising the salary of all full-time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty, at a cost of only a 1 percent price increase for customers.
Fox 6 reports that this will be happening in the Milwaukee area, thought I expect it to be limited.
Nobody working at Wal-Mart is forced to be there. And, while this is going to sound elitist, if Mr. French isn't happy with his station he is welcome to attempt to find something better.
I worked in retail immediately after grad school because, in 2007--just before the housing bubble--hiring had already stopped and contraction was beginning.
Rather than complain about the low pay (I made 9 bucks an hour selling TVs at circuit city) I made the most of my time there, learning about the business model and observing my manager. I picked up a lot about the difference between business theory and practice, and how corporate decisions can adversely impact stores on the ground, the same climate that lead to the eventual (and some would argue inevitable) demise of that company.
But I was educated, smart (to pat myself on the back) and driven to find something better. I was with that company for 3 months. In the first month, I didn't sell anything and was positive the boss was going to fire me.
The second month, I learned how to close. I came from an education background so I was more than happy to fill people's heads with all the knowledge they needed to make an informed decision, only to let them waltz out the door and go to sears, American, or best buy and purchase their products with an existing store account.
The third month I finally put everything together and lead the company in sales volume and percentage of service contracts, which were just insurance programs for big-ticket items.
I say this not to brag (though I’m quite proud of the achievement) but instead to put things into context. I don't know anything about Mr. French, who was interviewed by fox 6. I hope he's a high school graduate who is thinking about his future. But he's spent 8 months, by his own admission, working for Wal-Mart and isn't happy.
But what's his ultimate goal? To become rich? That’s not going to happen when you're just taking boxes from one location to another. Sorry, but it's not like skills (other than motor) are required for that endeavor. So no, you're not going to get paid more than the minimum required to keep that position filled.
Belling Monday talked about the problems of the entitlement generation, the millennial. I fall just outside that group, being 31 myself with the cutoff those born in 1982. That group, he argued, has been conditioned to expect things to be given to them. Competition has been devalued and mediocrity celebrated.
My family on my father's side came from humble means. They weren't poor, exactly, but there were 10 kids and that'll stretch any budget.
So when my father, who's a fairly bright fellow, decided that he wanted to go to college he didn't "occupy" some place and demand that it be given to him for free, he joined the army.
(As an aside, he was drafted and decided to enlist so he could sign up for the engineering corps. spent 2 years living and working in Germany and far from the battlefields of Vietnam. smart move.)
My grandfather, likewise, didn't complain about how hard his life was when my grandmother got pregnant again: he took on more work to keep food on the table.
While I vehemently disagree with the Wal-Mart decision to open on thanksgiving day and support the workers making their displeasure known, if they are not happy with the decision in life the answer is not to call the local TV station to interview you about how unhappy you are, it's to make an actual change in something you control: your own life.