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Wal-Mart does it again...

From the New York Times, a leaked copy of an internal memo about benefits:


Pitifully enough, there are many, many people who would be glad to get even that much... but the contempt shown in this memo for the people who work there is frightening ... because it's typical of all 'big' businesses now.

Edit: For iceraver... This is not aimed at Wal-Mart as a 'person' because it's not a person, it's a giant corporation, and the legal fiction that provides giant corporations with the same rights as a human is the biggest cause of human-originated suffering in the world, right now. Yes, corporations have taken over from Religion as the source of most evil. We've had this conversation at other times, when you've been much more, or much less, happy with the company, and a good part of my opinion of the place has been informed by the things you've gone through.

This is aimed at the board of directors (who are almost all Sam Walton's over-rich, under-responsible, very highly Entitlement Minded kids and relatives.) This is aimed at the corporate culture, which is detailed very well in the memo. They are of two minds, and one goal, and it shows.

In fact, the contents of the memo are striking. There is an almost-shamefaced attempt to justify continuing to offer better benefits and to make things really work better for the people who work there... and yet, there's the utterly heartless, venial statement that it's too difficult and expensive to actually improve the health of the associates who are sick, that it's better to 'attract and retain healthy employees'... It's a very short step from that to 'fire unhealthy employees, don't hire anyone who has any risk of illness'... and none of this even remotely addresses the fact that the incipient cause (that is, the trigger) for many illnesses is the work environment itself.
I also feel nothing but contempt for the idea that they want to REDUCE the number of people who are using their health insurance to provide insurance for their spouses... because everyone knows the spouses provide no benefit whatsoever to the company.

The DE-FACTO corporate culture at Wal-Mart is one that values making money for the corporation first, second, and third. A distant fourth, providing the best merchandise for the best price, drives the rest of the culture. The PUBLISHED corporate values derive from this fourth, but the people in the management positions, salaried or hourly, can readily see that the ones who get rewarded will ALWAYS meet the first three values first, even at the expense of the associates. This informs their practices.

Wal-Mart's upper management don't actually _care_ about the people who work for them, nor about the community, and the many, many people who work at Wal-Mart who DO care about their friends, neighbors, and their place in the community have to fight a too-often losing battle against the apathy of the rest of the workers, and the active dis-interest of the board and their selected upper-management, in doing anything that doesn't further inflate the short-term bottom line. This was something that was protested during the 80s and 90s, when Wal-Mart would come into a small community and destroy the independent businesses in the city cores by undercutting the locals, then raise their prices afterwards.

This is why we, the people living in the Hillsboro, Oregon area, have blocked Wal-Mart from opening a MEGA-BLOK store in the community. They would have been welcome in any number of locations in the area - hell, we have well-prepared, well-situated, empty sites with all the parking, sewer, and power requirements already in place, thanks to the Dot-Bust. They could have chosen a number of places within a mile of their original site choice (in the middle of a residential zone), and been eagerly welcomed by everyone except their competition. They treated the planning commission with rudeness and contempt (well, the choice of a Johnny Bravo clone as their lawyer did NOT help, as he condescended to, flirted inappropriately with, and insulted, the people who he needed on his side) and assumed they could buy their way past any objections. The fact that we have useful laws here in Oregon that provide land-use planning with real power wasn't anticipated, nor that they couldn't buy the commission. This says bad things about how certain parts of Wal-Mart operate

Anyway. I don't go there because there isn't one close enough to offset the cost of travel. I also don't like buying things made by real or virtual slave labor and out-sourced from other countries, but it's almost impossible to find any consumer goods anywhere in the world nowadays that don't fit in that category. I've been, when visiting my Mom, and found that there was a quality-vs-cost tradeoff, but that I could get decent stuff there, and that it would be a good value. The associates were uniformly polite (more so than at Target usually) but the ones I dealt with weren't quite numerate, and the greeters were fine, if a bit weird. There was a tendency (similar to what I've seen at Fry's) to watch everyone there with the overt, continual suspicion that they were thieves, and that makes me want to act suspicious just because it pisses me off, but in general, as stores go, it wasn't bad. It wasn't as good as the local Bi-Mart, which is employee-owned.

Oregon IS one of the states where it was proven that the management was pressuring people to work off the clock, and that was blamed on some immediate supervisors, but the courts and the state found a pattern that indicated it was more pervasive than one or two immediate supervisors. It was very good to hear from iceraver how they really do NOT tolerate that in the places he's worked, to the point that they go out of the way to find it and stop it.


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC)
You know how you feel about people slamming religion, man... well... I feel that way about the place I work. cut please.
Oct. 27th, 2005 09:46 pm (UTC)
I certainly do not know you, and I want to make it very clear that I am not attempting to pick a fight with you.

My particular beef, and foomf's as well, I think, is with the apparently seedy and shady business practices and politics being practiced by Wal-Mart's executives. I have nothing against Wal-Mart (per se) or its employees, but it chills me to the core that a major corporation operating on American soil would have the gall to practice third-world thuggery like this when it comes to workers' rights. It's bad enough when a company goes oversees to run a sweatshop, but when they practice it here, that's just scandalous.

I hope your situation is good and not oppressive, and I hope that leaking documents like this will help ensure that you can continue to enjoy whatever quality of work you're happy with.
Oct. 27th, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
If it's against the executives, then he needs to say that, rather than just saying 'Wal-Mart'. Wal-mart isn't it's executives. Wal-mart is it's people... hourly and salaried store associates alike.
Oct. 27th, 2005 11:20 pm (UTC)
For the majority of America, Wal-Mart is a company, just like Microsoft, Intel, Boeing, and CitiBank. It's seen (even by many people who work there) as a monolitic, faceless big-box store, not as the personal creation of their friends and neighbors who work there. Anyway, I've put in a cut and some disclaimers.

I am fully confident that you, personally, are going to do whatever is within your power to make the place better. But you're going to be in Florida, not Oregon.

And, Erik? You'd like Le. He's nifty.
Oct. 28th, 2005 01:12 am (UTC)
I would be very surprised to find any business that puts it's employees above it's bottom line save when they're trying to avoid labor unpleasentness or make a nice show for PR purposes. I think most people know that the so-called values published in company literature is just paper designed to attract investors; no-one considers themselves bound by it and it gets trotted out only for company dinners or indictment time.
Oct. 28th, 2005 01:51 am (UTC)
You might want to qualify that with "publicly-traded company". A small business where everybody knows each other might still have some personal consideration to spare.
Oct. 30th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)
I've worked for three companies which did, at some point, value its employees above the bottom line, if only as more than just a resource, but as participating contributing parts of the company.

Intel, in the late 1980s and early 1990s; Tektronix, in 1981-1985, but it had already started to sour from the heyday of the late 1960/early 1970 times, and Norm Thompson Outfitters, which STILL strives to value even the temporary employees and to empower them as much as possible.
Oct. 28th, 2005 03:02 pm (UTC)
In fact, the contents of the memo are striking. There is an almost-shamefaced attempt to justify continuing to offer better benefits and to make things really work better for the people who work there...

This line confuses me. Because I'm not reading between the lines or something. What's wrong with justifying better benefits or making things work better for the workers? Is the issue that they should offer a lower benefit package and include all instead of a higher package to just some?
Oct. 30th, 2005 11:55 pm (UTC)
The fact that they have to justify it. That they have to practically beg permission to do something good for the workers even though it has a slightly higher cost, because the longer term benefit is better.

Because it's not short-sighted greed, which is the zeitgeist of modern business.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )