(BENTONVILLE, Ark. – October 12, 2011) – In a dramatic confrontation, Making Change at Walmart, along with nearly 100 Walmart employees, members of the new employee association Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), were turned away from the front door of Walmart’s (WMT) home office here today as they asked to meet with Walmart CEO Mike Duke for the second time in six months. The employees are in Arkansas to offer solutions for improving the company’s ailing U.S. store operations on the same day that Wall Street analysts and investors are assembled at the company’s annual investor conference to hear from senior management about what the next year holds for Walmart.
OUR Walmart was formed last fall by and for hourly associates in Walmart stores to help change the way Walmart does business. Members are united in tackling the following goals: respect and better schedules, wages and benefits for Walmart’s employees; success for the company; and outstanding service and value for the customer. Walmart associates from across the nation have joined the organization.
“Walmart associates are the heart and soul of Walmart, which is why it’s very disappointing that Mike Duke continues to refuse to meet with us,” said Maggie Van Ness, a current Walmart associate from Lancaster, Calif. “Walmart’s failure to respect its workers is a big reason why the company is stuck in a rut. We have solutions to turn things around and the company ought to listen to us.”
A change in strategy by Walmart to invest more in its workers could not only improve the company’s long-term revenue growth, but could also boost the U.S. economy by increasing the buying power of millions of American workers at Walmart and other retail and grocery chains.
Walmart associates were paid 17 percent below the average wages for similarly sized grocery retailers, according to a 2005 study, and the presence of a Walmart store depresses wages for other employees at nearby retail businesses, according to a 2007 study.
At a separate meeting yesterday with Wall Street analysts, the OUR Walmart members detailed how the company is caught in a “vicious circle” of worsening business conditions driven by Walmart’s low-cost strategies. A full, unedited audio podcast of that meeting, and a corresponding report, “The High Price of Low Cost,” are available online at www.MakingChangeatWalmart.com/analyst.
Walmart is facing significant challenges as competitors are squeezing the company from all sides and same-store sales in U.S. are down year over year. Pressure to keep costs and prices down has led to pervasive understaffing. This short-handedness, combined with the computerized management initiative schemes and a move to part-time workers enforced by the Walmart home office, in turn leads to long lines at the register and bare shelves as restocking lags. The shopping experience deteriorates for customers, leading some not to return. That translates into lost sales, further increasing pressure to keep costs down—and the cycle repeats again.
Background on OUR Walmart
Today marks the second time in six months that Walmart associates have sought – and been refused — a meeting with CEO Mike Duke in Arkansas. In June, 100 representatives of OUR Walmart came to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville and asked for a meeting with Duke. They were told Duke was unavailable, but met with Karen Casey, senior vice president of global labor relations. After explaining their concerns, Casey promised that their concerns would be considered by senior management, but the employees have heard nothing from the company.
Since that meeting, OUR Walmart members around the country have seen their hours cut and their jobs threatened. And, in many Walmart stores across the company, local management is running a misinformation campaign about OUR Walmart.
“Some of us have been with company for many years and we have seen a marked decline in respect for the individual at Walmart,” said Ernestine Basset, a current Walmart associate from Laurel, Md. “As our same store sales figures continue to go down, the problems only seem to be getting worse. The issues we want to discuss are serious: they are hurting our families, they are hurting our jobs and they are hurting Walmart. We want to be partners in improving Walmart. That’s why we are trying to meet with Mike Duke. We’ve been through the other channels and they haven’t worked.”
In June, OUR Walmart members presented a Declaration of Respect to Walmart executive management. The Declaration calls on Walmart to:
- Listen to us, the associates
- Have respect for the individual
- Recognize freedom of association and freedom of speech
- Fix the Open Door policy
- Pay a minimum of $13 an hour and make full-time jobs available for associates who want them
- Create dependable, predictable work schedules
- Provide affordable healthcare
- Provide every associate with a policy manual, ensure equal enforcement of policy and no discrimination, and give every associate equal opportunity to succeed and advance in his or her career
- Provide wages and benefits that ensure that no associate has to rely on government assistance to get by
- Adopting this Declaration will make Walmart a better company for associates, customers and the communities in which it operates. As Sam Walton said, “Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners.”
Read the full declaration on ForRespect.org
UFCW News Service