The other side of Walmart | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The other side of Walmart

Posted By on Tue, May 31, 2016 at 11:12 AM

The Walmart annual stockholders meeting is scheduled later this week and happy shareholders and employees will throng to an event that always features big-name entertainment and other razzle dazzle.

There is another side. For example: the UFCW, a union that has made little inroads at the anti-union retailer, sends word of a production to counter the main message.

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Bentonville, the Making Change at Walmart organization will hold a roundtable discussion featuring not-so-happy workers and customers.

While Walmart is expected to tout its so-called “investment” in workers at the meeting, the Walmart workers available at this event will share their personal horror stories about being unable to afford rent, getting seriously injured on the job, and getting fired for unfair reasons.

“I would just like to make enough money to not have to feel like I am constantly struggling,” said Margaret Hooten, a worker who will be at the discussion. “I have worked at Walmart for five years and still only make $10.69 an hour. I am an expert in plants and gardening but get passed over for promotions in the garden department, where I work. Walmart talks about things like good wages and opportunities for advancement that I just don’t see in my store.”

“It seems like we are always understaffed and always understocked. Managers don’t recognize this and have unrealistic expectations of us,” said Lorene Berry, another worker who will speak. “I feel like I could be fired for any time, for any reason. I want to do better for our customers, but it is hard to in this work environment.”

“I have friends who have worked at Walmart, and I’ve seen how poorly they treat their workers. Two of my friends were dedicated employees for years before they both got unjustly fired,” said Jason Cooper, a former Walmart customer who will attend the discussion. “I’ve started shopping at other stores, and I don’t see much difference in prices. Even if there was, I’d rather spend my money at a store that values its employees.”

Recent reports from Walmart indicate the company has recognized shortcomings in stores and done some beefing up of staff to improve the "customer experience." For my part, I can report that I actually could find someone to answer an inventory question on one of my infrequent stops at the Walmart market in Riverdale, which — thanks to its light customer volume — amounts to one of the world's largest and best-stocked convenience stores, so long as fresh meat and produce are not at the top of your shopping list.

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