Walmart Organizers Claim Victory In Little-Heralded Announcement
Walmart was quick to dismiss the Black Friday strikes at their stores as a failure, claiming it had record Black Friday sales regardless. But last week, Walmart's U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon made an announcement that led some Walmart organizers to believe they were finally handed a victory.
At the National Retail Federation's annual convention last week, Simon announced that the store was planning to make it easier for associates to work more hours, if they wanted. That got little coverage in the press, which focused on Walmart's pledge to hire 100,000 veterans and sell more Made in U.S.A. products.
Derrick Plummer, a spokesman for Making Change at Walmart, the campaign to improve conditions at the chain, said the announcement was "no coincidence," following months of campaigning by OUR Walmart, the union-backed advocacy group. In a written statement, Plummer called it "a victory for the nearly half a million Walmart workers who will be affected" and "a key victory for a cause championed from the very beginning of OUR Walmart."
Giving part-timers "first shot" at full-time
One of the most common grievances from Walmart employees has been that they are unable to work the number of hours they would like. Workers like Charlene and Greg Fletcher (pictured above) say they want to work full-time, but Walmart gave them just 32 hours in a good week.
(An employee at Walmart needs to work an average of at least 34 hours a week in order to be eligible for health benefits after 180 days on the job. Part-timers are eligible after a year, and only if they work an average of 30 hours a week.)
At the press conference, Simon said that the policy-change was in response to negative press that retail jobs, and in particular Walmart jobs, had received. He explained that Walmart is making its scheduling more transparent, so that associates could add more hours with greater ease. The world's largest retail chain is also developing a system, Simon added, to alert its associates to full-time openings at their store, or nearby ones, and will be giving those part-time employees the "first shot" at getting those jobs.
Walmart spokesman Lunberg couldn't say exactly what this new system of transparency and visibility would look like, however, stating that "we're still putting the final touches on that," but workers would likely see the improvements within six months.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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