Working At Walmart
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Politics and Activism

Working At Walmart

A year after the experience

Working At Walmart
Ryan Fan

Last summer, I worked my first job as a sales associate at the quintessential American corporation: Walmart. Reviews on the Internet told about under-staffing and consequently too much work to be done for employees. Horror stories online told about outrageous confrontations with customers and management.

When I started working as a stocker, however, it truthfully wasn't that bad. It was actually fun, at times. Although sometimes we were overworked so work couldn't be finished, I genuinely enjoyed working with understanding management and some of the most interesting and unique people I've ever met. We were given an hour lunch break and two 15 minute breaks. At Walmart, there were workers of all backgrounds: college students working for the summer, indie filmmakers looking for extra cash, college graduates looking to transition to careers, and most of all, those working at Walmart as their careers.

While I enjoyed the job and interactions with my co-workers for the summer, it was clear that many that work at Walmart for their careers weren't in great situations. Many had families to support. Full-time hours per week were 34 hours, so hypothetically, a worker working full-time the whole year at $13.38 per hour, the new (very new) average Sales Associate salary in the United States, would make a gross annual salary of $23,655.8, below the poverty threshold for a family of four.

My schedule as a full-time worker ranged from 24 hours to 40, and the days I worked were different every week. For those working multiple jobs to make ends meet, this brutal scheduling inconsistency is a drastic impediment, and is a major criticism of the company. In addition, as the store is open during holidays, workers are in especially high demand during Black Friday and Christmas and can't spend as much time with family. Overtime hours were extremely rare and avoided.

It must be said that Walmart is, without a doubt, not the only corporation that implements this kind of system, and it is engaging in reforms to better worker salaries as of 2016. Employees hired before 2016 had salaries raised to at least $10 per hour, and new entry-level associates start at $9 per hour.

But although they raised the minimum wage across stores, full-time employees who worked with the company for years were dismayed. The company gives a maximum annual raise of 60 cents per year. Say someone works for four years starting at $7.50 per hour, and gets three raises of 60 cents to attain a $9.30 salary.

When Walmart increased its minimum salaries, this raise was not transferred with the minimum and this worker makes $10 per hour along with everyone else, when the worker would expect to make $11.80. Essentially, the reward for the past three years of work was annulled. That being said, this worker would be given greater preference for promotions, as most managers and supervisors initially started as sales associates and cashiers.

Lastly, Walmart and many other big corporations are extremely anti-union. During training, every employee needs to watch a video claiming that employees don't need to join unions and are well-represented by their supervisors and managers if they have any concerns or complaints. This video has been leaked on YouTube, and is undoubtedly one of the funniest and most outrageous videos I've ever seen. If there's one thing you take away from this article, watch this nine minute video of corporate propaganda.

As I looked around at my three fellow potential co-workers, two near my age laughed quietly, but hysterically, and a middle-aged blue-collar man shook his head the entire time, saying at the end, "This is completely ridiculous; I wouldn't have bought my house if it weren't for my union." Even the training supervisor, who must have seen this video hundreds of times, chuckled to herself. Walmart's anti-unionism is so severe that when one associate mentioned a union, she was quickly chastised by management. Needless to say, being in a union is heavily stigmatized at Walmart.

We must recognize that Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, and with reforms like raising the minimum wage, prices could rise and stores could close. Even though the $15 dream adopted by Bernie Sanders and many left-wing populists is a stretch, a 2011 UC Berkeley study showed that a nation-wide salary increase of $12 an hour would only raise prices 1.1 percent. Even if this isn't passed, Walmart would lose very little just keeping the raises of full-time senior workers that they're rightfully entitled to after years of working for the company.

Ultimately, as an experience, there was something about having 20 carts of 50 boxes of items to stock, 10 sections to organize (zone, as we call it) and having to sort a hundred returned items that weren't even in stock all in one day. The greatest part about it was looking at a co-worker, and the telepathy of I know, this completely sucks gave a sense of unity and togetherness.

In my bubble of being a college student looking to make a few extra dollars, it was fine and somewhat rewarding experience. But would this be something I'd want to do my whole life? Absolutely not.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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