After making a big deal of publicly supporting the Affordable Care Act, Walmart—the nation’s largest private sector employer—is joining the ranks of companies seeking to avoid their obligation to provide employees with health insurance as required by Obamacare.
It was not all that many years ago that Walmart announced, in response to harsh criticism over the low pay provided to Walmart ‘associates’, that the company would provide a healthcare benefit to its part-time, low earning employees. The uncharacteristically generous nod to worker needs was short lived as the company partially pulled back on the commitment in 2011, citing premium rate increases that Walmart deemed beyond their capacity to pay.
Now, Huffington Post is reporting that the party is over for many more existing Walmart employees, along with all employees hired after February 1, 2012 that the company can classify as “part-time.”
According to the 2013 Walmart “Associate’s Benefit Book”— the manual for low-level Walmart employees—part-time workers who got their jobs during or after 2011 will now be subject to an “Annual Benefits Eligibility Check” each August.
Employees hired after Feb. 1, 2012, who fail to average the magic 30-hours per week requiring a company to provide a healthcare benefit, will lose their healthcare benefits on the following January. Part-time workers hired after Jan. 15, 2011, but before Feb. 1, 2012, will be able to hang onto their Walmart health care benefit if they work at least 24 hours a week.
Anyone hired before 2011 will not be cut off from the company provided health insurance.
Of course, Walmart carefully controls employee work schedules and will have the opportunity to design worker hours in a manner that will keep employees at a level below the threshold required to accomplish company healthcare benefits pursuant to the law.
While there have been increasing reports of American employers reacting to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act by making plans to cut employee work hours so that these companies may deny health insurance as a benefit of employment—particularly in the restaurant and fast food industries—it appears that Walmart has been planning this move all along.
Who are the real “job creators”? Contrary to conventional wisdom, the answer seems to be: People who have jobs – particularly those which pay well. Well-paid employees buy things, and that creates jobs for other people.
And what creates those kinds of jobs? A healthy union movement. Unions are also a bulwark against income inequality, an economic distortion which even conservative Forbes magazine acknowledges is bad for the economy.
It looks to all the world as if there’s a correlation here: Union membership goes down – deficits go up. Perhaps the correlation isn’t as strong as it looks, but the idea isn’t crazy. Higher-paid employees pay more in taxes, which is good for the government’s bottom line. They require fewer government services. The same is true of their families, neighborhoods, and communities. And their contribution to economic growth means everybody’s better off.
The lesson for all those deficit-obsessed policymakers might be, to paraphrase the late Joe Hill: Don’t “austerize,” organize.
Maybe that’s why the 1956 Republican Party platform boasted that under the leadership of President Eisenhower “unions have grown in strength and responsibility, and have increased their membership by 2 millions.” They knew what was good for the economy … and good for business.
Today in labor history, November 30, 1854: Social reformer and activist Mary Eliza McDowell is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. McDowell – who was referred to as the “Angel of the Stockyards” – established a settlement house in the back of the stockyards in Chicago, where she lived and worked to improve the working conditions of the stockyard workers and the living conditions of their families. Her passion for social justice and equality continued throughout her life.
The biggest wave of job actions in the history of America’s fast-food industry began at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday at a McDonald’s at Madison Avenue and 40th Street, with several dozen protesters chanting: “Hey, hey, what do you say? We demand fair pay.”
From Walmart to fast-food, workers are demanding a living wage & the right to unionize!
The term “McJob” has come to epitomize all that’s wrong with the low-wage service industry jobs that are growing part of the U.S economy. “It beats flipping burgers,” the cliché goes, because no matter what your job might be, it’s assumed to be better than working in a fast-food restaurant.
Today in New York City, though, hundreds of workers at dozens of fast-food chain stores are walking out on strike, demanding better of those jobs. At McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, and Domino’s Pizza locations, workers have been organizing, and today they launch their campaign. They want a raise, to $15-an-hour from their current near-minimum wage pay, and recognition for their independent union, the Fast Food Workers Committee.
Saavedra Jantuah, who works at a Burger King on 34th St. in Manhattan, explained that the $7.30 she makes per hour after two years on the job doesn’t pay her enough to support her son. “I’m doing it for him, I’m going on strike so I can bring my family together underneath one household,” she said. “A union can help us get to where we can make it in New York.”
Cannot even express how thrilled I am about this story. I’ll be on the picket lines with the workers in a couple of hours, with photos and more stories. Service jobs don’t have to be lousy jobs—respect and a decent wage would do a lot.
112 workers killed in Bangladesh Walmart factory fire
November 26, 2012
NGOs are slamming Walmart following a Saturday fire that killed at least 112 workers at a Bangladesh factory supplying apparel to the retail giant. While Walmart says it has not confirmed that it has any relationship to the factory, photos provided to The Nation show piles of clothes made for one of its exclusive brands.
In a statement e-mailed Sunday night, Walmart expressed sympathy for the victims’ families, and said that it was “trying to determine if the factory has a current relationship with Walmart or one of our suppliers…” The company called fire safety “a critically important area of Walmart’s factory audit program,” and said that it has been “working across the apparel industry to improve fire safety education and training in Bangladesh.” Walmart added that it has “partnered with several independent organizations to develop and roll out fire safety training tools for factory management and workers.”
But in a Monday interview, Workers Rights Consortium Executive Director Scott Nova said Walmart’s “culpability is enormous. First of all they are the largest buyer from Bangladesh” and so “they make the market.” Nova said Bangladesh has become the world’s second-largest apparel supplier “because they’ve given Walmart and its competitors what they want, which is the cheapest possible labor costs.”
“So Walmart is supporting, is incentivizing, an industry strategy in Bangladesh: extreme low wages, non-existent regulation, brutal suppression of any attempt by workers to act collectively to improve wages and conditions,” Nova told The Nation. “This factory is a product of that strategy that Walmart invites, supports, and perpetuates.” The WRC is a labor monitoring group whose board is composed of students, labor organizations, and university administrators.
The fire started Saturday night in a ground-floor warehouse. According to media reports, the factory’s emergency exits were insufficient in number and unsafe in design, routing through the inside, rather than the outside, of the building. Some workers survived on the factory’s roof; several jumped out of the building. A lack of safe fire exits contributed to the death toll in New York’s notorious 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
A document on the website of the factory’s owner, Tuba Group, showed that the factory had received an “orange” rating from Walmart in May 2011, because of “violations and/or conditions that were deemed to be high risk.” The same document said that three such ratings within two years would result in a year-long suspension by Walmart.
“Obviously, they didn’t do anything about it,” said Nova. He called Walmart’s internal monitoring system “a joke” that was “set up to enable Walmart to claim that it’s policing, without in any way, shape or form inconveniencing its production process.”
A Walmart spokesperson told The New York Times that the retail giant had been “unable to confirm” the veracity of Tuba Group document, or whether Tazreen Fashions, the Tuba Group subsidiary running the factory, was supplying any Walmart goods.
But photos taken after the fire taken the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, provided to The Nation by the International Labor Rights Forum, show clothing with Walmart’s exclusive Faded Glory label (photos below). Nova accused Walmart of intentionally dragging its feet on admitting its connection to the factory, in hopes that by the time the connection is confirmed, the media will have lost interest.
WRC’s Nova said that Bangladesh’s deadly labor conditions are a direct consequence of Walmart’s business model. If a factory “really followed the law,” said Nova, “if they allowed workers to organize and bargained a contract, if they invested in necessary health and safety equipment, if they restructured the building to make it safe, put in place sprinklers and outside fire escapes, their costs would rise, they would have to charge more for their product, and they would immediately lose Walmart and their other customers.”
This is why, if I can avoid it, I do NOT shop at wal mart anymore. They are evil!
The 129 Bangladeshis who died in a fire caused by poor fire safety conditions in their garment factory should be thankful for their jobs, according to Fox Business host Charles Payne. Speaking with Neil Cavuto on Fox News this Monday, Payne excused this Sunday’s fire as a rare event and labelled all critics of the unsafe conditions that contributed to the tragedy as “anti-Capitalist”:
PAYNE: It is tragic. I don’t think something like this will happen again. Don’t think that the people in Bangladesh who perished didn’t want or need those jobs, as well. I know we like to victimize everyone in this country, particularly when it comes to for-profit motivation, which is being assaulted. But, you know, it is a tragedy but I think it is a stretch, an amazing stretch, to sort of try to pin this on Walmart but, of course, the unions in this country are desperate.
The Bangladeshi factory in question, Tazreen Factories, had no functioning extinguishers, locked the exits, and employed managers who told factory workers to go back to their stations when the fire alarm went off. Since 2006, over 200 people have died in Bangladeshi garment factories as a consequence of the substandard safety precautions prevalent in their factory.
During his defense of the factory, Payne referred to himself as “a spokesman for capitalism and the American Dream” and said “for a lot of people, this [Walmart business practice] is a step in the right direction.”
Increasing the wages of retail workers to $25,000 per year would lift roughly 730,000 workers and their families out of poverty, according to the Demos study. It would also increase the purchasing power of retail workers by $4 to $5 billion, boosting overall GDP by between $11.8 and $15.2 billion. And in doing so, it would generate between 100,000 and 132,000 new jobs as a result of this “stimulus” and its multiplier effects, while having only a small effect on prices, the report finds.
Paying retail workers better also offers substantial benefits to the companies that employ them. While this may seem counterintuitive, detailed academic research backs it up. Zeynep Ton of MIT’s Sloan School of Management argues that seeing keeping wages low as the way to achieve low prices and high profits is badly mistaken: “The problem with this very common view is that it assumes that an employee working at a low-cost retailer can’t be any more productive than he or she currently is. It’s mindless work so it doesn’t matter who does it. If that were true, then it really wouldn’t make any sense to pay retail workers any more than the least you can get away with.”Like the leading high-tech and manufacturing companies, the best, most high-performing retail companies benefit from having better paid, more skilled and more engaged workers. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Ton finds that the retail companies that invest the most in their lowest paid workers “also have the lowest prices in their industries, solid financial performance, and better customer service than their competitors.”
On November 23, 1909, over 20,000 Yiddish-speaking immigrants, mostly young women in their teens and twenties, launched a strike in New York’s garment industry. Known as the Uprising of the 20,000, the strike would last 11 weeks and was the largest known strike by women in history. The morning after the decision to strike, 15,000 shirtwaist (women’s blouse) workers began picketing. Later that day, there were more than 20,000 strikers, with men joining the strike as well — completely shutting down the industry.