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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

So does this mean an organizing drive?

Wal-Mart Says Thank You to Workers

Published: December 4, 2006

Faced with public demonstrations of discontent by its employees, Wal-Mart Stores has developed a wide-ranging new program intended to show that it appreciates its 1.3 million workers in the United States and to encourage them to air their grievances.

As part of the effort, Wal-Mart managers at 4,000 stores will meet with 10 rank-and-file workers every week and extend an additional 10 percent discount on a single item during the holidays to all its employees, beyond the normal 10 percent employee discount.

The program, described in an internal company document, was created during a volatile six months period, starting when the company instituted a set of sweeping changes in how it managed its workers.

Over that time, Wal-Mart has sought to create a cheaper, more flexible labor force by capping wages, using more part-time employees, scheduling more workers at nights and weekends, and cracking down on unexcused days off.

The policies angered many long-time employees, who complained that the changes would reduce their pay and disrupt their families’ lives. Workers even staged small rallies in Nitro, W. Va., and Hialeah Gardens, Fla., the only such protests in recent memory.

The portion of the new outreach program called “Associates Out in Front” is described in company documents as a way for Wal-Mart to show workers “that we do appreciate you and that we have an ongoing commitment to listening to and addressing your concerns.”

The documents were provided to The New York Times by, a group funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which fears that Wal-Mart will undermine unionized stores.

The program includes several new perks “as a way of saying thank you” to workers, like a special polo shirt after 20 years of service and a “premium holiday,” when Wal-Mart pays a portion of health insurance premiums for covered employees. Sarah Clark, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the program was a “a more formalized, contemporary approach” to communicating with and collecting feedback from its fast-growing work force.

But she said it was not a response to workers’ concerns about new company policies. The Associates Out in Front program, much of which is not described in the documents, she said, “is about building on something that is already very good.”

In interviews, half a dozen Wal-Mart workers said there was a growing perception within the company that managers did not respond to employees’ ideas and complaints.

Kory Uselton, a 35-year-old overnight floor cleaner at a Wal-Mart in Tyler, Tex., said his store manager offered “robotic” company-approved responses during a recent meeting when workers questioned the new attendance policy, which originally called for disciplinary action after three unauthorized absences (although it was later revised to four unexcused absences).

Asked if absence for a family emergency, like a sick child, would be authorized, Mr. Uselton recounted, the manager said, “No, it’s not.”

“Many of the associates were very upset,” Mr. Uselton said. “Management is just not listening anymore.” Some Wal-Mart employees said workers might be afraid to speak up because they have seen coworkers retaliated against — for instance, transferred to worse shifts when they voiced their complaints.

Other perks, like a shirt that states length of employment in five-year increments starting with 20 years of service, appear designed to build morale, but might do the opposite.

Cleo Forward, a 37-year-old support manager at a Wal-Mart in Dallas, said the new program was promising, but that it fell short in recognizing long-time workers who felt unappreciated by the changes.

“They are going to spend $15 on a Polo for you after 20 years? Give me a break,” he said. “We would rather they lift the wage caps.”

Is that discount card for Penney's or Sears, where the shit doesn't fall apart after a year. And the t-shirt? Yay. Was it made for Target or Lands End?

What about the right to organize and decent health care and higher wages.

Wal Mart is shitting their pants because the Dems are going to ask hard questions about the company.

Watch and see if a Wally World troll tries to tell us how good the company is. Some fat, cheetos eating zombie is gonna tell you working for America's shittiest company is some kind of economic free choice.

The fact is simple: Wal Mart has had a free ride for a long time. It's time they paid what they owed, like decent health care for their workers.

posted by Steve @ 12:35:00 AM

12:35:00 AM

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