Unions, Temps, Wal-Mart, & Irony

by John Hawkins | September 14, 2005 3:33 am

Folks, if you’re for a single news story that is so jam packed with irony that it could actually inspire Alanis Morissette to write a song called “Ironic Part 2,” then today is your lucky day. That’s because Stacy Willis at the Las Vegas Weekly[1] has written one of the most irony packed columns that I’ve read in a dog’s age.

This excerpt should give the gist of the story:

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They’re walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Henderson—anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and arms—with two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.

…They’re not union members; they’re temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They’re making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it’s 104 F, and they’re protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

…The union accuses Wal-Mart of dragging down wages and working conditions for other grocery-store workers across the nation. “Whether you work or shop at Wal-Mart, the giant retailer’s employment practices affect your wages. Wal-Mart leads the race to the bottom in wages and health-care,” says the UFCW’s website. “As the largest corporation in the world, Wal-Mart has a responsibility to the people who built it. Wal-Mart jobs offer low pay, inadequate and unaffordable healthcare, and off the clock work.”

But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, Don’t Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards, picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: “I can’t complain. It wasn’t bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour.” Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.

…The group has no transportation to go elsewhere—they are dropped off by a union van and picked up later. On weekends, they have to find their own transportation, Greer said.

Inside, the store manager at the Stephanie Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market says he’s perfectly happy with his job, and that his insurance is fine.

“The average rate of pay for Nevada Wal-Mart workers is $10.17 an hour. We have a good insurance program, and every associate—even part-timers—are eligible for the 401k,” says Mark Dyson. “There’s actually different levels of insurance, dental and medical—I have a $500 deductible, but there’s no cap on it. Some other companies’ plans have a $1 million cap, but here there’s no cap. For example, not long ago we had an associate whose husband needed a liver transplant, and that alone was $600,000; but they didn’t have to worry about a cap.”

For the least comprehensive medical coverage, Wal-Mart workers pay from $17.50 for individual coverage and $70.50 for family coverage biweekly, according to the company website.

…In Dyson’s market, the air-conditioning is cool, business on this day seems brisk, and the employees seem not so miserable; two checkers chat it up as they ring up customers.

This is not lost on the picketers outside.

Rivera removes his watch to show the dark tan his arm has gotten working in the sun; he talks about how he takes three buses to get to this work site on weekends; it takes two hours to get there and two hours to get home—a nine-hour day including that transportation for a gross pay of $35.

“I asked him (union organizer Hornbrook), I said, ‘How come we’re working here for $6 an hour? I need you to help us find a better job. I want information on the union,'” Rivera said.

He was told, he says, to secure his own job with a grocery store, and then the union would help him to be sure the store paid him appropriate wages.”

Here we have a union picketing Wal-Mart. Yet, the union isn’t using union labor for their picketing, because it’s too expensive. Moreover, the union accuses Wal-Mart of having poor working conditions & pay. Yet, it’s obvious that the conditions & pay at the Wal-Mart are far better than what the union is providing for the temps. The union complains about health care, but the workers at Wal-Mart can purchase health care at a fairly reasonable price, while the temps hired by the union have no benefits whatsoever. So, it’s obvious that these people would actually be better off if they were working for Wal-Mart instead of protesting.

So, the United Food and Commercial Workers union wants to pay the least amount of money they can to get a job done. But then, when Wal-Mart does exactly the same thing, the UFCW cries foul. Why? Because the unions and the democrats want a slice of that pie.

How would that work?

Wal-Mart charges YOU more to buy things. Then they take that extra money they get from YOU to pay their unionized workers more. The workers then pay their unions. Then the unions contribute huge sums of money and manpower to Democrats who in turn favor laws that put more money in the pockets of the unions.

That’s what these assaults on Wal-Mart we’ve seen of late are really all about.

Hat tip to Alarming News[2] for the story.

  1. Las Vegas Weekly: http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/2005/09/08/awsi1.html
  2. Alarming News: http://www.alarmingnews.com/

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