COMMENTARY | As reported in an article in the Huffington Post, temporary workers who have the arduous task of working in the warehouses that supply big box marts like Walmart, oftentimes work in grueling positions that offer little pay, no healthcare, and little to no leeway when it comes to basic worker rights. The story follows the life of Uylonda Dickerson, a 38-year-old single mother who works as a trailer lumper for a warehouse that is sub-contracted under big box marts like Walmart. In addition to the backbreaking labor of loading and unloading tractor trailers, Dickerson is forced to work for “per piece” wages and is given sub-standard breaks and treatment.
As a former Walmart cashier, I can attest that Walmart’s low prices come at a big cost.
As everyone knows, Walmart’s low prices are a result largely because of the mass outsourcing of work overseas and sub-standard quality. Companies that sell their products in Walmart stores are forced to lower their standards to suit Walmart’s prices. These methods are only the tip of the iceberg of how Walmart managed to acquire a $419 billion dollar profit for 2011. Walmart’s low prices also come at the expense of its employees.
I worked as a Walmart cashier for two years and because of my part-time status, I wasn’t supposed to work more than 32 hours a week, which usually equated to six hours per day (with two days off a week). Walmart employs a majority of part-time employees so they do not have to offer healthcare and other benefits, yet they forced us to work full-time hours and cut hours at the end of the week. After our six-hour shifts as cashiers, management would tell us to go work on the floor or in layaway for another five hours.
To keep from having to pay us overtime or bumping our statuses to full-time, management would have us cut our hours at the end of the week. After working overtime hours all weekend and part of the week, Wednesday or Thursday we were told not to come to work or our six-hour shift was cut down to one or two hours. About a year ago, I received a letter in the mail notifying me of a lawsuit against Walmart for this very practice in my store. Even though I know that Walmart will get off by paying a fraction of what they owe, I was still happy to see that action had been taken against them for their foul practices against their employees.
I could go on for hours about the ill treatment of employees in Walmart stores but suffice it to say that Walmart’s low prices come at a big cost and oftentimes off the broken backs of its employees. This corporate takeover is a vicious cycle for its employees and consumers — one I see no end to in the near future. It would greatly help, however, if shoppers would consider this when they decide where to spend their hard-earned paychecks.