Wal-Mart Smoking Gun, with Bonus Egomania


As a mild egomaniac myself, I'm quite sympathetic to those who see themselves at the center of major events. But since Wal-Mart announced new labor policies which analysts say will shift about 40 percent of its workforce to part-time, human interest stories about dissed workers are popping up like mushrooms, each with its own theory about just what kind of worker Wal-Mart is out to destroy.

The New York Times tells a legit hard luck story of one Wal-Mart worker:

Sally Wright, 67, an $11-an-hour greeter at the Wal-Mart in Ponca City, Okla., said she quit in August after 22 years with the company when managers pressed her to make herself available to work any time, day or night. She requested staying on the day shift, but her manager reduced her schedule from 32 hours a week to 8 and refused her pleas for more hours, she said.

"They were trying to get rid of me," Ms. Wright said. "I think it was to save on health insurance and on the wages."

Wright is probably right. If she has been at the company 22 years, she is a relatively expensive greeter to keep on the payroll and insurance rolls. But if she's getting screwed, she getting screwed in exactly the same way that professionals, support staff, and managers are getting screwed in every industry, all over the country every day:

To some extent, Wal-Mart is simply doing what business strategists recommend: deploying workers more effectively to meet the peaks and valleys of business in their stores. Wall Street, which has put pressure on Wal-Mart to raise its stock price, has endorsed the strategy, with analysts praising the new approach to managing its workers. In the last three years, the stock price has fallen about 10 percent, closing at $49.32 a share on Friday.

"They need to be doing some of this," said Charles Grom, an analyst at J. P. Morgan Chase who covers Wal-Mart. It lets the company schedule employees "when they are generating most of their sales—at lunch, in the evening on the weekends."

Let's hope most commenters will manage to keep the lament about the extreme, unusual cruelty of Wal-Mart's labor practices in a relatively low key this time around–the Times story is surprisingly even-handed. But I'm not holding my breath.

Here's the smoking gun [PDF] for those interested in checking out the primary source. It wasn't supposed to be a public document, so common sense suggests it's as close as we'll get to a clean description of what Wal-Mart actually believes will happen as a result of the policy.