Walmart had originally made a positive move in raising the minimum wage for its workers making the lowest hourly amount, but now the company is trying to cut corners again – by cutting its workers’ hours. So far, store managers have been forced to send workers home before their shifts are finished and give employees ridiculously extended lunch breaks to reduce working hours. A spokesperson insists that these strange tactics are only happening in instances where workers were over-scheduled, but the effects are being felt by many.
Anonymous Walmart workers around the country are experiencing issues with the adjusted hours and speaking up. A Walmart worker near Houston revealed that people were sent home early so that her Walmart location could cut 200 hours from the schedule in one week. Another employee in Fort Worth heard that the store would try to eliminate 1,500 hours. Any employees who were originally scheduled to stay late were sent on two-hour lunch breaks.
Earlier this year, Walmart said it would raise its minimum wage to $9 by April, and would raise the base pay again in 2016 to $10 an hour. It was a change that would affect approximately 500,000 employees and cost the company over $1 billion. CEO Doug McMillon was optimistic that these changes would result in lower employee turnover and boost sales with better customer service and more dedicated employees. He said:
“The changes we need to make require investment, and we’re pleased with the steps we’ve taken. Even if it’s not as fast as we’d like, the fundamentals of serving our customers are consistently improving, and it’s reflected in our comps and revenue growth.
We know what customers want from a shopping experience, and we’re investing strategically to exceed their expectations and better position Walmart for the future.”
But in the beginning of August, the company revised its annual earnings forecast, changing the original estimate that the higher employee compensation would reduce the company’s profit by 20 cents per stock share to 24 cents per share, even though comparable sales grew by 1.5%.
Walmart currently insists that its focus on increasing customer service and providing a positive shopping experience won’t be affected by the latest cuts to workers’ schedules. Unfortunately, customers may also suffer as Walmart tries to reduce costs. One employee, who has now been forced to cover an area that was previously looked after by several people, says that the changes have resulted in longer wait times. She said that recently, a customer had to wait a half hour just for an employee to unlock a product for them – a situation that would frustrate any customer.
Walmart workers had protested and gone on strikes for years before they were granted an increase from the $7.25 hourly wage and better schedules. Surely the workers affected by the new scheduling changes in favor of reducing the company’s costs won’t appreciate being paid less once again. Unfortunately, Walmart is caving because its long-term investment isn’t paying off as fast as it needs to be. Even though higher employee compensation might result in growth in the long term, the company still must answer to Wall Street and their stockbrokers. They’ve poured $7.6 billion back into buying their own stock, funneling the money to the stockholders and leaving none to invest in workers. It is yet another display of absurd greed on the part of the Walton oligarchs, and shows that corporate America will stop at nothing to preserve their fortunes- unless the laws are rewritten against them.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.