Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Why I don't hate Walmart

After reading first at Skippy the Bush Kangaroo then over at Kos the story about the Pensacola Walmart refusing to sell the local newpaper anymore because of an unfavorable article written, I started thinking. Especially after seeing them layin down the anti-Walmart line at Kos.

First off most of the claims made about Walmart are taken out of context. Without even getting into that let's really look at the real issue of why people can't make a living wage anymore and will even go to work at Walmart. The two tier wage system that Unions created out of their own greed.

First I'll use an example close to home since it involves my own family. My two older children work for Sam's Club, which is part of the Walmart group. My son used to work at Foodtown, it was union. He earned 5.25 an hour and paid the same union dues as everyone else. Yet all workers who had been there several years earned a higher wage, some over double his. Why? They negotiated a lower starting wage for new workers instead of cuts in benefits. He would have never made it to the same hourly rate they earned. Krogers, another local union store is exactly the same. New workers will never earn anywhere close to what the others do. Just retail you say? Caused somehow by that evil Walmart?

Not quite. Let's look at the UAW, they have the same two tier system. New workers will earn an average starting wage of $16.50 where the average wage for workers before this was $24.00 an hour. The highest wage for a new employee is $18.50, for before tier workers? $36.00 an hour. New employees also have to pay more for their health benefits than the "older" workers. At the Delphi plant, new workers will pay between $1,000-2,000 for an annual health care deduction, older workers? No annual deductible. New workers will also pay a higher co-pay for prescription drug coverage. In addition to agreeing to have all these new workers not only earn less but pay more for health care, some UAW members got up to $5,000 signing bonuses and more vacation time to agree to basically screwing over the "new guys".

It's not just the UAW or retail, teacher's unions, police, city workers, the list goes on and on. The two tier wage package is happening more often every year. Which means your chances if you are looking for a new job or your children's chances of earning this "living wage" are reduced, not because of Walmart but because Unions member were willing to sell out their supposed "brothers" so that they were not affected.

So, as I shop at Walmart the next time, remembering that all of their employees earn the same starting wage, where benefits cost the same, where merit wages exist so that you are really rewarded for good work rather than just showing up, where they have a yearly bonus and a stock option program, I'll know at least my money is being spent where the idea of equal pay for an equal job is still being followed. If you want to pay 2.00 more for the exact same item at Target and think that is somehow getting into the workers pockets? Ask a Target employee what their starting wage is and how great their benefits are.


Roman said...

There you go again making sense. :) I agree with you 100%. I used to work for Union stores years ago. They are willing to take your dues weekly but when an issue is presented in regards to either a co-worker or management they are nowhere to be found. I currently hold two jobs and both of them are union free - even though each of them have their ups and downs I would rather communicate with them than actually paying for something that won't back me up or even listen. Although I don't mean to put all Unions under the same umbrella - I am only speaking from a terrible experience that crossed my path. Excellent post Lisa "baby"

OG said...

This is the balanced and well thought out posts that keep bringing me back. Thanks for uncovering the truth about modern day unions.
Thanks again.

Lisa Renee said...

I don't hate unions either to clarify that, but what I do have a problem with is the creation of the two tier wage. It not only hurts our children's future but makes the prevailing wage lower. I understand everyone is concerned about what is best for them financially but how is it right to condemn those who shop at Walmart to save money when most of the unions have agreed to these two tier wage agreements that say basically the same thing. "It's all about me having the most money"

To me this is a very important issue that doesn't seem to get talked about. Making Walmart the "monster in the closet" takes the focus off of the two tier wage system and places like Target that give their employees less yet get a free pass because the focus is on Walmart.

I hear and read so many people say "I'd never shop at Walmart, I only shop at Target". Target of course loves that you feel that way.


Steve said...

And you wonder why the AFL-CIO is having problems. the Teamsters and the Service Workers Union is right the problem with Unions and the AFL-CIO s organizing, but why would anyone wan't to become part of a Union when they spend more time advocating politically on issues that have no real affect on your job and in turn screw the new members.

I don't hate unions. In fact I'm a union member, Clessroom Teachers Association wich is part if NEA. At our Anual Conference they railed against the War and the Bush White House, however little was resolved in trying to improve education or trying to improve the lives of it's membership. My wife is a member of the same Union, When She had a greivence, she had to do all of the leg work, while people in the School District and her schools administration took pot shots at her integrety. Then at the las minute, the Union rep, came in and took credit for everything. You wonder why there is a problem with organized labor, where do we begin.

Lisa Renee said...

Exactly Steve, that's how I see it as well, where do we begin to me doesn't mean focusing attention on Walmart.

It means returning the focus to what it used to be, about the workers, past..present...and future.

Me4Prez said...

I will admit that I am not a fan of unions. I think that they can be great and really help, but people get in the way. My dad was a union member at Firestone in Des Moines when they went on their nearly 3 decade strike and a corrupt AFSCME for another decade or so. You need great people as union leaders, but too many times, it seemed that you just got people who stayed a long time and were great manipulators in my experiences. It may be different for others.

As for Wal-Mart, I am not so much bothered by their pay as I am their view on health care and benefits. They hire seasonal workers and fire people so that they don't end up on the company health care costs but end up on Medicaid. Maybe they should lead the charge for nationalized health care since they seem to think the government is responsible for it anyway

Lisa Renee said...

Almost all retailers hire seasonal help then most of those hired are let go. If the company is honest in telling you that your position is only seasonal it shouldn't be an issue.

Are all store managers honest? Nope, but that's a problem that goes beyond Walmart as well.

Xpatriated Texan said...

I appreciate the expose', Lisa. It's good reading, good facts, and it needs to be brought out more often.

I'll say this, though:

I grew up in an area where saying "union" would get you fired. You can claim all you want that it isn't so, but I've seen it.

Texas passed a "right to work" law - which bans closed shops. It isn't a right to work at all - it's a right to remain entirely at the mercy of your employer. If you think it's bad having to do your own leg work to file a grievance, try working someplace where you can walk in and give your grievance directly to the boss and he'll give you your final paycheck on the spot.

Walmart is an angel compared to South Texas grocery giant HEB (where you'll get fired for mentioning "union"). One of the largest privately owned companies in America, HEB (when I worked for them) had a whopping 38% of its people listed as "full time with benefits". I knew people who had worked part-time for thirty years with no benefits - even some that had retired as part-timers who had only worked for HEB their whole life!

HEB doesn't fire people, they just cut your hours down to one per week. Then they'll begin changing that one hour per week so you never know when you're supposed to be there - oh yeah, they don't give out scheduling info on the phone either. Drive thirty miles to work and find out that you don't work until tomorrow and then only for an hour. Grievance procedure? Hey, no one told you that you have to work here!

I've also lived in towns where Walmart built a superstore ten feet beyond the city limit sign to prevent paying any local sales tax (which was .03%). I've seen whole counties shuttered by Walmart's "low prices" until Walmart is the only business in the county. Guess what? Even the people who work at Walmart can't make it turn enough profit to stay open. Poof! No more Walmart. Drive another thirty miles to the nearest store.

There are a lot of problems with Unions. The biggest problem is that the leadership (as far as I know) is democratically elected. Just as is true about our democratically elected officials in Washington, the ones in the Unions have to be held to public oversight. As soon as that is lost, you might as well buy KY by the caseload.

I've worked in "at-will" states, and let me tell you - it sucks. I'll take a badly limping union over no union at all any day. Believe me, you don't get benefits out of the good-heartedness of the guy running your company.

I'll put away my soapbox now and stop the rant.


Lisa Renee said...

Thanks XT, and I agree with you that there are problems with Unions as well as Walmart and places that will fire or make anyone who has said "union" quit.

I think the only way to solve some of this is to start talking about all of the reasons rather than the whole concentrated effort on Walmart being the source of all of the evil.

Not to knock any of my fellow liberals, but I see that as a Mantra too often that doesn't address some of the deeper real issues. I also agree part of the problem with unions is the upper management of the unions seem to forget their roots, and basically become the same as the corporations they were supposed to be bargaining with for the sake of the workers.

Xpatriated Texan said...

I personally think a better tack to take against Walmart is to put a union organizer at the entrance to every store - just like the Teamsters did when they were getting started.


Lisa Renee said...

I'd suggest XT that the unions need to get their own acts together first so that people would even want to join them.

Going thru a similar union organizing attempt here several years ago the primary reason most wouldn't consider it was the feeling that this particular union had not done well in really helping others who had joined so there was no expectation they be any different.

Given the two tier wage that that union had agreed to for other places, if you make more per hour than the union employees and have better benefits it is hard to sell why a union would be a positive.