Walmart: Ally or Villain

Over the past several weeks Walmart has made headlines for employee protests rather “everyday low pricing”. Walmart has opposed unions since they opened in 1962 and there have been several failed attempts to organize the over 1.4 million Walmart employees.  The efforts in the past few years are gaining momentum and even Walmart executives have acknowledged their efforts.

Employees of Organization United for Respect at Walmart , OUR Walmart coordinated protests on the busiest shopping day of the year. It involved 1,000 stores, 4,000 members and thousands of others sympathetic to their position. The members of OUR Walmart want more full-time positions, predictable schedules, and respect. The members of OUR Walmart say that they some of the employees aren’t making enough for a decent living. Some of the Walmart representatives rely on government support and food banks where Walmart is a contributor.

The claims against Walmart extend beyond the complaints from the employees. Many activists say that Walmart’s growth has come at the expense of its workers, environment, and the law. The articles sited that since 2005 Walmart has paid $1 billion in damages related to unpaid work. There are also allegations of corruption in its Mexican subsidiary and a potential cover up by Walmart executives. In November there was a fire at a factory in Bangladesh that Walmart uses for sewing clothes. The previous year declined to sign an agreement among retailers that would have improved working conditions.

On Walmart’s side, CEO Mike Duke told Bloomberg that “This tension for me is not a tension.”  Walmart executives stand firmly that they are supporting their workers better than their competition and claims that their turnover rate is lower. David Tovar, a spokesman for Walmart said “we have human resources teams all over the country who are available to talk to associates”. Walmart says that their benefits are affordable and comprehensive and overall they are proud of the jobs they offer.  The protests on Black Friday only impacted one tenth of one percent of the company’s workforce. If Walmart employees unionize they are risking vacation time, bonus, discounts and other Walmart employee benefits.

Each side of the fight has brought a team of experts to tell their side of the story. Walmart brought in a strategist for the Democratic campaigns to improve Walmart’s reputation. Leslie Dach specifically focused on reducing waste and energy use and supported Obamacare. OUR Walmart is working with ASGK Public Strategies and the UFCW. ASGK is making OUR Walmart a brand and using tactics such as social media to build the base of supporters. Their efforts have been highly organized and effective compared to previous union attempts.

QUESTIONS: Walmart’s strategy to ignore the efforts is not working as it did with other attempts. I questioned if Walmart make OUR Walmart an ally rather than an opponent? Do you think Walmart employees are treated and compensated fairly?

SOURCES:

http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/18/news/walmart-strike-black-friday/index.html

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-13/walmart-vs-dot-union-backed-our-walmart

9 thoughts on “Walmart: Ally or Villain

  1. I think that unionization is an interesting concept. If the employees feel that they are bringing more value to the company than they are compensated for, it would seem to me they could bring value elsewhere, too… let them “vote with their feet” and find another place to work. The more interesting point is that the group that benefits the most from unionization is the group that would collect the dues.

    I do not know how Walmart employees are currently compensated. I do know that employees everywhere complain about unfair compensation, because it is easier to complain than to work harder or find more valuable work. I also know that based on the few Walmart stores I have shopped in, I have not seen a lot of customer-centric behavior by Walmart employees, and I cannot see unionization helping this situation.

  2. The article illustrates the importance of understanding both sides of the story. We only see and hear bits and pieces of facts and opinions when we read articles like this online, and the only way to really be able to make an informed judgement is to know both sides of the argument. At first glance, one might feel like WalMart is the big, evil corporation that employs cheap labor, focuses on volume sales (not quality), and might even turn the other way to make a few extra bucks. However, it’s easy for the media to paint any company this way for publicity. What about the OUR Walmart group’s decisions? Do we know for sure they have legitimate reasons for protesting? In wonder if this is only happening in particular locations in the country and not others? Corporate may have a justification in originally ignoring this group based on facts that they knew and the general public didn’t. I can’t say anyone is right in this case, but the only way I’d feel comfortable forming an opinion is doing more research myself to draw informed conclusions.

  3. I do not know the wage and salary comparison between Wal-Mart and other stores on the same level and business such as Target, Kmart and others. My opinion is that Wal-Mart does not employ top notch employees unless it is for top management and with that they most likely pay lower wages than their competition and still within the legality as far as minimum wage, medical, vacation, etc and do not expect to suffer pressure from their workforce knowing that many of their employees would not or could not find anything better.
    I believe it is important to the employees of Wal-Mart to have themselves organized so their voices can be heard and so they can get their wages updated to levels compatible to the marketplace.
    I guess the biggest issue for Wal-Mart is to raise wages and benefits without passing the cost to its shoppers or making Wal-Mart in store experience any worse than it already is.

  4. I liked this article because I do shop at Walmart and I love going their on Black Friday. I never really thought how this store’s employee’s respond to the lowest prices slogan because everyone has to put on a happy face for work. I mean their logo is a big smiley face. I can see why employees would be unhappy, but I also understand why they do not necessarily get the best benefits. It is a retail shop after all. If they do choose to unionize, they will lose a bunch of different benefits, which at the end might be a worse situation than they’re already in. In the article, the CEO said that Walmart has a low turnover rate, which means that most employees are happy where they are at. Some of them work at this job because without it they cannot survive. However, I do not believe that it is the company’s sole duty to make sure that everyone has a good life. On the other hand, if employees really are unsatisfied with their wages, it is important that they voice these concerns and that is where a union would come in hand. It is decisions like these that are difficult to find the right answer.

  5. I believe Walmart is in a position where it probably does not really care about the OUR Walmart organization. They are such a huge business entity that the OUR Walmart group faces a daunting task if they really want to force Walmart to accomodate their needs or make a change. I believe the group is being led in the right direction in trying to get Walmart’s attention. I believe that many Walmart employees would benefit from having a union to protect themselves and certain rights they feel need to enforced, but in order for Walmart to take notice, there should be even more large scale organized protests like they had on Black Friday. The group also needs some clear leadership and transparency to show Walmart that they have legitimate concerns about how they are being treated as employees. They should also make their ultimate goals known so Walmart could be informed on what exactly are the employees concerns and what they believe would be a viable solution. If the OUR Walmart group can continue to grow and become more organized, then they have a chance to actually gain Walmart’s attention and maybe could actually work something out, but by the looks of it, Walmart is currently not worried about the group since they are just a minuscule portion of their workforce.

  6. This post stood out to me as I have watched the documentary “The High Cost of Low Prices” which talks a lot about Walmart and the issues they face. My family is very pro union and many people in my extended family refuse to shop at Walmart because they are not unionized and because they do not treat their employees fairly. After watching the documentary, Walmart seemed to only care about making money. Everything was about ways they can cut costs and make more money. While this is a good strategy for a business, it comes at the cost of their employees in Walmart’s situation. I think that it’s extremely important to keep your employees happy. Without happy, satisfied employees, it’s that much harder to run a successful business. I definitely think that it would be in Walmart’s best interest to become an ally rather than opponent with OUR Walmart. Even though Walmart is such a huge organization, the unhappiness of their employees will catch up with them sooner or later and negatively impact their business. I think by ignoring their employees’ opinions and views, Walmart is not treating the employees fairly.

  7. Walmart should really consider making OUR Walmart an ally rather than an opponent. Just like a business cannot run without customers, a business cannot run without its employees. There is many articles and documentaries that I have seen that focuses on the unethical way Walmart treats their employees. If Walmart continues to mistreat employees by under paying them and not providing enough benefits it may affect the company in the long run.

    Walmart is already a big well known company and providing their employees with better benefits and pay will make them an even better company, a company where people would actually want to work at.

  8. Walmart depends on their “low-cost” structure to dominate the market. Unfortunately, the under compensation of employees allows for the price cutbacks of their products. This “low-cost” structure also makes it nearly impossible for smaller business owners to compete with the large corporation. From a consumer outlook, Walmart eliminates the variavbility of products and the products become much more generic. Each of these examples illustrate the excess of power Walmart has over the market.

  9. In my opinion, Wal-Mart has been underpaying its employees. I understand the opposing attitude of management for Wal-Mart in regards to labor unions. I believe that unionized workers are paid above market rates which makes it difficult to compete with other firms. However I do not think this is the case for Wal-Mart employees. Wal-Mart has been taking advantage of its employees for the simple fact that Wal-Mart has been forced to pay over $1 billion in damages for unpaid work.

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