Rev. Susan Fredrick Grey welcomed members of OUR Walmart (Organization united for respect at Walmart) on Sunday, June 1, 2014. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix’s Sunday service was, Welcome opens doors.
One of the main principles expressed by this month’s theme, Welcome, is the premise that welcoming someone is the heart of hospitality. Hospitality at its best expresses our recognition of the inherent worth and dignity of all people.
Walmart was started by Sam Walton on a very simple and successful idea that if you provide lower prices and a great shopping experience, customers would return. The familiar face gracing the entrance of all Walmart stores had always been the smiling face of the door greeter. “Welcome to Walmart” ushered the shoppers into the big box store giving the consumer an impression that they were appreciated with a friendly and often familiar face. Sadly, the feeling of the family run store has died giving way to the cold and calculating corporate mentality; the friendly face at the door is now the position on the cutting room floor.
This author asked the Making Change at Walmart coordinator presenting to the congregation, what the company intended to do for it’s phased out employees. The answer was both disturbing and concerning in this current economy. The typical door greeters have mostly been senior citizens or disabled adults. The prospect of these welcoming members of the “Walmart family” will more than likely be the loss the job; they will typically not be moved to an associate’s position. The door greeters are started at the very lowest wages in the company. Many of these employees rely on this income to help subsidize their social security income or disability income, which typically is not enough to pay all the bills in today’s economy.
Walmart is one of the top employers worldwide making the Walton family and stock holders some of the wealthiest retail owners in the industry. The counter balance of these billionaires are the Walmart workers. Walmart wages are so low that the majority of the full time employees (average 34 hours) make $15,000 a year, which brings their wages below the federal poverty level.
Sam Walton, although paying lower wages, provided a sense of family to his associates offering stock options and health insurance, something not standard back in 1962. After his death the concept of viewing Walmart employees (Walmart Family) as assets has moved to a cut throat corporate mentality of using one employee where three employees used to work. In this human capital concept it is optimal to make the bottom line of retail sales verses cost of goods sold heavy on the profit side. Just like the problematic Veteran’s Administration who handed out bonuses for the best profit to cost ratio, Walmart now uses the same philosophy devaluing the efforts of those employees who built the core of Walmart.
One resounding comment from outsiders is that those working poor cost the average tax payer over six thousand dollars a year in what they call subsidies or handouts such as food stamps or Medicaid. It isn’t fair to the taxpayer, (of which many Walmart employees are) or to the Walmart employees who work for substandard wages. Not only is Walmart victimizing the employees by reason of lower than average wages, it also creates unhealthy shift changes working both morning and night shifts within the same week. The other standard is to switch up the weekly day and night shifts with alternating or inconsistent days off. This philosophy, unlike what Mr. Sam’s family values indicated, is hard on families, family dinners or family time together. This method of lower than average wages combined with unworkable shifts also does not allow a worker to have a second job to subsidize the already hard to live within budget.
If you would like to support the efforts to bring dignity and fair wages to Walmart employees please join these courageous Walmart workers on June 2nd at 5:00 p.m. for a dinner, march and prayer vigil. It will start at Temple Solel, 6895 E. McDonald Drive in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Contact Rev. Erin Tamayo for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be kind to those underpaid, overworked Walmart employees who “help you save money so you can live better” and let the management know how much you appreciate the warm welcome you receive as you walk in the door.
Do a random act of kindness every day, it is good for the soul and for humanity as a whole. For comments other than on examiner.com write email@example.com.