Walmart Wants To Pay People More

So, I’ve already commented on the fact that a union decided that a 100% pay cut was better than an 8% pay cut.

I don’t get it, but hey, maybe the principle behind the whole thing mattered.

Then I hear of the story of Walmart workers who are mad at the prospect of making more money:

Along with Target and Sears, Wal-Mart has plans to open retail stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Employees said they weren’t given a choice as to whether they would work on Thanksgiving and were told to do so with little warning. “They don’t care about family,” said Charlene Fletcher, a Wal-Mart associate in Duarte, Calif. She said she is expected to report for work at 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The workers said that when they complain about scheduling and other problems, management cuts their hours or fires people.

I make a decent living.  In fact, I suspect I’m in the top 10% of Americans in terms of salary.  I enjoy the benefits of this condition.  However, there are sacrifices I have to make:

  1. When I got married, my wife and I stayed at a beach house.  I brought my laptop and was working everyday during my honeymoon.
  2. No matter where I go or what time it is,  I have my cell phone and am available night and day.  I often get called.
  3. Never, EVER, in my career have I let my management ever get the slightest inclination that I was a guy who would turn down work or responsibility.
  4. I remember a time when I worked 47 days straight, right through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Every. Single. Day.
  5. If all goes well, I’m on a plane right now to Puerto Rico for a weeks vacation with family over the Thanksgiving holiday.  My laptop is in my luggage; I’ll work every day.

I don’t get it.  I don’t get the concept that says that hard work doesn’t pay off.  That sacrifice doesn’t lead to rewards.  I don’t understand how people who want money are resistant to working to earn more money.

Or at least I didn’t understand.

I saw a Facebook post recently regarding the strike at Hostess and the totally shocking result of the closing of the business.  One of the comments went something like this:

If they strike and  get released, at least they’ll get 100 weeks of unemployment.

I added that they would also now get free healthcare.

And that reminded me of this:

More and more these people don’t need jobs.  If they lose their job they’ll get unemployment for nearly 2 years.  Plenty of time to work something out.  Further, with the election of Obama, they are sure to get free healthcare as well.

Literally, what is it that would incent these people to work?  If they lose their jobs, what really is the downside?  How much would they net lose?

What kind of perverse incentives are we building into our society?

 

 

11 responses to “Walmart Wants To Pay People More

  1. While I do not like some of Walmart’s policies, I agree with much of what you say. I’ve always been successful in jobs precisely because I do the same as you – always show a desire to work, be willing to work holidays (I’d volunteer to work holidays) and show a desire for more responsibility. It works. I see that as a teacher as well. Students who are success prone don’t complain, take criticism seriously and try to show a real interest. One class I had only one student was posting enough and in the right way on a discussion board. I read the class the riot act about how they were sacrificing their grades by not taking the time to post with more variety and detail.

    I assumed the good student would realize I wasn’t talking about her, but that afternoon she came by my office, trying to figure out how she could improve. I think she was the only one to take me seriously (or at least to act on it), but she was the only one who didn’t have to! I would bet my life savings that she’s going to be successful in life.

    • I assumed the good student would realize I wasn’t talking about her, but that afternoon she came by my office, trying to figure out how she could improve. I think she was the only one to take me seriously (or at least to act on it), but she was the only one who didn’t have to! I would bet my life savings that she’s going to be successful in life.

      Yup.

      Competence floats. Incompetence reaks and can be seen a mile away.

  2. I get that your job isn’t confined to a defined 8 hours on business days, and you don’t sympathize with people who expect that . I’ve worked on weekends and my own time too (though I’ll concede I think you’d have me beat).

    But I’ll concede this about my work too though:

    1. the work I do is generally creative and interesting
    2. generally isn’t repetitive
    3. involves taking initiative.
    4. allows me some autonomy and not a lot of: ‘do it like this because I told you to, and I’m the boss!’

    I suspect this is true for you (and Scott too).

    The folks bemoaning more hours at Walmart, likely can’t say any of what I characterize about my job. There’s lots of every day being just like the last, doing things because you were told to.

    That said, I can understand why these folks don’t envision saying on their death bed: ‘wish I’d spent more time at work’.

    • The folks bemoaning more hours at Walmart, likely can’t say any of what I characterize about my job. There’s lots of every day being just like the last, doing things because you were told to.

      You may be missing the part of my career spent in jobs that were just that, “Do as you’re told because I told you to.”

      That said, I can understand why these folks don’t envision saying on their death bed: ‘wish I’d spent more time at work’.

      The problem is this, they want to work, they just want it on exactly their terms.

  3. For many years I was self-employed. During that time, I was available to assist my clients 24/7. I never refused work, but I was paid well for my efforts. I am now a public worker. The pay is less, but I never need to work weekends, or holidays, and I get the summers off. It is a tradeoff; we either get lots of money with lots of responsibility or less money with little responsibility. (I’m happy with the arrangement.)

    The workers at Walmat know that they are at the bottom, so they see no benefit in reporting for work on a holiday. Why should they worry about losing a minimum wage job? There are lots of other entry level jobs. It is a tradeoff; by paying workers so little and treating them like mindless robots, Walmat finds itself saddled with spiteful and unmotivated workers.

    The real question is how Walmart rewards loyal workers that do report for work on Thanksgiving. Will those folks receive better shifts during the next year? Will they be provided greater autonomy in the tasks that they are assigned in the future? My guess is that these workers will get none of these perks because that is the way Walmart rolls.

    • Will those folks receive better shifts during the next year?

      I think so.

      The story goes on to say that workers that refuse get worse schedules through fewer hours.

  4. just want it on exactly their terms

    Maybe its that they see not working on Thanksgiving as something that has a pretty long history in most retail business. Changing that is taking away an implied contractual right, or at least what they expected when they took the job. As such, maybe its a giveback and engenders more resentment as a result.

    Of course, the way you characterize your work shows that work is invading you and many professionals personal lives to an increasing extent over time. You seem to accept that readily, so you think these folks should too.

    In fairness though, for me and I’d think for you there would be a point where if demand on my or your time became great enough: we’d look for another job. Though working everyday of your honeymoon suggests your boss would have to push pretty hard to find a border you’d refuse to cross.

    • Maybe its that they see not working on Thanksgiving as something that has a pretty long history in most retail business.

      I dunno Bruce. I routinely shop at my grocery up until 4:00 on Thanksgiving. I go to Home Depot until 5:30 on Easter Sunday.

      I remember when gas stations were closed on Sundays. Totally closed.

      I like things to be open. And maybe those folks should be happy to have the chance to earn more money.

      Of course, the way you characterize your work shows that work is invading you and many professionals personal lives to an increasing extent over time. You seem to accept that readily, so you think these folks should too.

      They should accept it too. Or, quit complaining about the fact that they’re part of the 99% and that guys like Mitt Romney are rich.

      Though working everyday of your honeymoon suggests your boss would have to push pretty hard to find a border you’d refuse to cross.

      I have fantastic freedoms that my job affords me. For example, I’m able to travel to Phoenix to visit my mom, Minneapolis to see my brother or Seattle to see my best friend. And I can work from each of those places and not take vacation; all while my peeps work their job during the day…..

  5. By the way, Hostess’ problem was mismanagement rather than unions. The unions have worked with management a long time to help them with their problems, but it wasn’t union demands that caused the difficulties (though it looks like Hostess might survive after all).

    Unemployment is high. It used to be lower. Clearly MANY people want to work but can’t find jobs. When the economy was booming we were at near full employment (the unemployment rate was the usual for workers in transition). So I suspect most people want to work, I doubt many people could work but choose not to.

    • By the way, Hostess’ problem was mismanagement rather than unions.

      It sure looks like the managers have some shenanigans going on; the salaries to name one. However, the union had the choice to take the cut or lose the job; they chose losing the job.

      though it looks like Hostess might survive after all

      Yes. The name and recipe will be sold to non-union entities. Maybe off shore.

      I suspect most people want to work, I doubt many people could work but choose not to.

      These guys are going to get weeks and weeks of unemployment and free health care. What do they need jobs for?

  6. weeks and weeks of unemployment and free health care. What do they need jobs for?

    Work is at best, a good in itself. It makes me feel good (better anyway) about myself. I’m not anxious to retire (though I’m in my 50’s). I’d think boredom would motivate most people to work even if living expenses weren’t a motivator, but in practice there are people who turn a safety net into a hammock. Just how many is I think harder to be sure about.

    That said, I hope to not work the next few days. I can use a break (also if I’d worked everyday of my honeymoon, I don’t think I’d be married now. Your wife is accustomed to it I suppose).

    Anyway have a nice vacation, and happy Thanksgiving to any who read this.

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