following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the
November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please
understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not
gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try
to give all of the material posted on this site.
always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout
this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct
problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the
spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very
informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more
than 50,000 words by the end of November.
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is a tough one… because I don’t have all of the facts. And yet…
that is exactly the point… because I don’t believe that in this
situation Ashton Kutcher or any of the other critics of Walmart
have all the facts either.
up… background details and such… head out and read these:
poor is poor? Ashton Kutcher, Walmart face off on Twitter”
“Walmart defends food drive to help employees”
let’s set some things straight right now…
am not defending Walmart and what they pay their employees.
am not defending Walmart in the arena of whether or not they dominate
communities to the point of driving small businesses out of existence.
many issues, the business practices of Walmart, the staff of Walmart
and their wages, and the place of Walmart in the marketplace are
complicated. It is definitely not something simple -- “You should
only sell items made in America”… “Your company made a profit,
and that should be given to the employees” -- that answers these
questions or addresses these concerns.
for one response to such thoughts, I am aware of court cases and
fines and more involving issues like overtime pay at Walmart.
when I began reading the articles and critiques about a fundraiser
organized by Walmart employees to benefit Walmart employees, I
found myself… for lack of a better word… sickened by how quickly
the situation was picked up by those that wave swords at the Walmart
windmill, with no apparent thought given to why the fundraiser
might be taking place.
understand there are reasons… as there may be for just about any
business… to be critical of Walmart. In this case though, it seemed
to me that these critics had picked up the fundraiser story and
tried to define it to fit their own purposes without a care as
to what it truly represented.
let’s see if we can establish some facts.
number one, which no one disputes, some employees of a Walmart
store held a food drive for other employees -- A store in Canton,
Ohio, held its fourth annual food drive for employees. It was
themed as being dedicated to support associates in need.
frankly… that’s about the end of the facts.
begins and ends with both sides acknowledging there was a fundraiser.
Why is that the end of the facts?
after that, the stories go all over the place.
me a bit of thought… from personal experience… to see if we can
develop some possible context for this situation by leaving this
specific debate for a moment.
of the places I worked at over the years had an assistance fund
for staff members. It was designed to help out during the extreme
circumstances that are never easy for a person or a family to
face -- fires… loss of a loved one… unexpected illness… and so
on. And, at the risk of trying to summarize and characterize them…
extreme circumstances that are not the responsibility of or fault
of the employer.
are life circumstances. Heavy items that pretty much we all in
some form face, but none of us would ever place into a schedule
or a plan.
people running this effort where I worked held food drives (maintaining
a pantry) along with fundraisers.
was these efforts that came to my mind as I read about Ashton
and company unloading on Walmart and the pay rates they offer.
The critics hammered away at poverty lines and pay rates and on
here’s a question… what does Walmart owe its employees? And before
you answer… before you point to overtime pay, medical benefits,
and other issues… let me steer you toward these concepts for consideration…
a company rebuild a house after a fire and replace an employee’s
possessions? In other words, if a house or an apartment building
is lost in a fire and that results in someone from their staff
losing the physical home and belongings (or, even worse, multiple
people from their staff), is it Walmart’s responsibility to find
them a new place to live, replace their furniture, and restock
an employee passes up on insurance options, such as temporary
disability concepts (like long and short term coverage beyond
company coverage), and then gets hurt at home and cannot work,
is it the employer’s responsibility to continue to pay them when
they are not working? In other words, if an employee is at home,
on their day off, and climbs a ladder to clean the gutters, falls,
and breaks a leg, is it Walmart’s responsibility to pay them their
salary over weeks of recovery even though the employee never worked
during that time?
I’m getting at is simple… is this a round hole and a square peg
situation? Are people so lined up and ready to blame Walmart for
anything that they are jumping up and down on the concept:
“Walmart employees hold fundraiser for co-workers…”
they don’t care about the possible realities that created the
have experienced fill-in-the-blank.” (The loss of a loved one…
a personal illness… etc.)
of the articles I’m reading don’t say. They all seem to speak
about assisting to create a family Thanksgiving for staff in need.
I haven’t seen many that even hint at why those families are in
Walmart spokesperson is quoted as suggesting what I am outlining
though. Get this…
said it’s not unusual for store associates to launch fund-raising
efforts or other activities, including bake sales, raffles and
food drives, to help fellow employees who face financial hardships,
especially after dealing with illness or death, or devastation
after natural disasters. Employees also can apply for assistance
of up to $1,500 from the retailer’s Associates in Critical Need
Trust, an $80 million fund established to make donations to
it at least seems possible that we have a scenario where employees
are getting together to help out their co-workers during what
a few moments ago I suggested could be extreme circumstances.
And, it appears that Walmart is allowing for them to do so at
a Walmart location, and in some ways contributes monies of their
own to help out.
here’s a funny thought… what if the company banned such activities?
mean, take a look… Walmart is getting decked by Ashton Kutcher
and Organization United for Respect and more. Is it so farfetched
to think that the publicity being generated might frustrate them
as a company?
if the bake sales and food drives stop… does that mean people
won’t get hurt at home or lose a family member?
the beginning I told you… I am not defending Walmart on all fronts.
But I do believe that it’s important to understand what you’re
talking about before you begin to negatively paint a picture.
this particular case… given my experience with places I’ve worked…
it is not unusual for employees to need assistance. And when the
company helps out that’s fantastic, not something to attack.