Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wal-Mart executives are so versed in duplicity that you'd think they'd leave a trail of slime like a slug when they walk.
H. Lee Scott, the CEO, as part of Wal-Mart's PR campaign to combat the rising tide of bad publicity, visited Good Morning America and denied all company wrongdoing. He averred, for example, that there's no evidence of any company policy to pay women employees less than men. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show smirked over that one and agreed there was no written policy as such, "just a rich oral tradition." Scott also insisted that Wal-Mart pays every worker for every hour worked. That's not how the workers tell it:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. After finishing her 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift, Verette Richardson clocked out and was heading to her car when a Wal-Mart manager ordered her to turn around and straighten up the store's apparel department.
Eager not to get on her boss's bad side, she said, she spent the next hour working unpaid, tidying racks of slacks and blouses and picking up hangers and clothes that had fallen to the floor. Other times after clocking out, she was ordered to round up shopping carts in the parking lot.
Some days, as soon as she walked in a manager told her to rush to a cash register and start ringing up purchases, without clocking in. Sometimes, she said, she worked for three hours before clocking in.
"They wanted us to do a lot of work for no pay," said Ms. Richardson, who worked from 1995 to 2000 at a Wal-Mart in southeast Kansas City. "A company that makes billions of dollars doesn't have to do that."

Class action and individual lawsuits in 28 states allege that such pay cheating is common. And until the court stopped the practice a couple of years ago, some Wal-Marts locked overnight workers in, not allowing them to leave even for medical emergencies.
Nevertheless, CEO Scott insists that the company has lots of good jobs and that 74 percent of its workers have full time jobs. Of course, he fails to mention that at Wal-Mart 28 hours a week is considered a full time job. That works out to less than $12,000 a year.
In addition to its shabby treatment of its employees, Wal-Mart makes a habit of strongarming its suppliers. Holton Meat is a local company that provides a typical example. Holton signed a contract to make hamburger patties for Wal-Mart. A year later, Wal-Mart dictated a price for the patties that was below Holton's cost. Only by cutting corners with sanitation and safety regulations could Holton have made any profit, so its management refused to continue working with Wal-Mart. Overnight the company went from 400 employees to seventy. Now it's back up to 500 employees and was recently offered another contract with Wal-Mart. No day, no way, Holton said.
Wal-Mart has bilked its workers out of millions, stiff-armed its suppliers and, oh yes, pretty much destroyed the fabric of small-town America.
Tomorrow's blog will describe ideas for making people aware of all this perfidy.

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