Nine days before Wal-mart (WMT) holds its annual investors conference, a group of Wal-mart workers is holding its own meeting with analysts in New York. The group "OUR Walmart" wants to publicize the negative impact that cost-cutting strategies and other policies are having on the world's largest retailer in an effort to help change those policies.
The alternative analysts conference is being held the same day that Wal-mart workers from nine countries are gathering in Los Angeles to launch the UNI Wal-mart Global Union Alliance, and at a time when workers at warehouses supplying Wal-mart stores are striking outside of Chicago and Los Angeles.
John Marshall, senior capital markets economist the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, tells The Daily Ticker, "There's a real problem at Wal-mart. They have not been staffing the stores to the level they need to be in an effort to cut costs and meet short-term profit targets.... Customer service is really declining. If you look at all the national statistics on customer satisfaction Wal-mart is at the bottom of the industry and declining."
OUR Walmart wants the company to pay a living wage, schedule regular hours that employees can depend on and treat employees with respect.
Wal-mart is the largest employer in the U.S. with 1.4 million workers. It pays the average associate less than $12 an hour.
Jackie Goebel, who has worked for the company for 24 years, makes just under $19 an hour. She tells The Daily Ticker that Wal-mart has changed in ways that hurt employees and customers.
"When I started you got merit raises, a yearly raise and a raise at 90 days," says Goebel. "My pay has been capped for 6 years. I have no hopes of ever getting another pay raise probably."
Why not quit then? "I am loyal to the company," she says. "I love the company. I love the people that I work with."
Goebel plans to stand in solidarity with her co-workers and fight for better working conditions, wages and benefits.
Wal-mart's treatment of employees doesn't seem to have hurt the company's stock. Wal-mart shares have gained 22% year-to-date compared to about 13% for the S&P 500.
"Wal-mart's business is healthy and growing… Wal-mart comp sales grew by 2.2% in the latest quarter --the fourth consecutive quarter of improving comp sales," says spokesman Dan Fogelman.
Responding to the critique by OUR Walmart, Fogelman said, "We have some of the best jobs in the industry. We have good pay, affordable benefits and the opportunity for advancement which typically meet or exceed those at majority of competitors include unionized ones."
Marshall of The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union says Wal-mart can and should do more for its employees, and that could improve the living standards for other workers in the U.S.
"If they raised standards it would help the entire working class and middle class in this country," says Marshall.
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