Working for Walmart

I have worked for Walmart for over 17 years. It used to be a good place to work. Once you got hired on, they looked out for you. Your supervisor made sure everybody got the hours that worked for you. If special needs arose, it was accommodated. You knew your job cared and had your back.

How times have changed.

When I hired on, full time was 28 hours or more. That meant anyone working more than 28 hours was entitled to full time benefits. Part time got benefits, they just had to work twice as long to get them. That included health insurance for you and your family and disability and life insurance.

Things are very different now. Part time employees don’t get any benefits. There is no health insurance for them or their families. No option for disability insurance or life insurance.

And yes, Walmart made a big publicity splash about raising everyone’s pay to $11 an hour but someone has to pay for that. People at the bottom got big raises to take them to $11. I got a 28 cent raise. For the whole year. And the only positions open for new hires are part time. All those thousands of new jobs they are hiring for? They don’t pay for insurance for those people with a savings of millions of dollars.

Now, part time hours are considered to be 32 hours or less, and to be considered to be full time you have to average that many hours a week at least. And the big heaping pile of poo in the middle of this is the fact you have to be willing to work the shifts they offer to get those full time hours. And if the hours you are assigned to work don’t add up to that amount, too bad, so sad, you are cut to part time hours and classification after 10 weeks and lose all benefits including health insurance. and you have no choice to fight it unless you can bend down and accept the hours they will give you.

Did I mention the available shifts either start at 4 am or end at 11 pm. I cannot do the 4 am start shift. I can’t sleep when it’s light outside. I would have to go to sleep at 6 in the evening and get up at 2:30 in the morning. I might get to see my husband for 30 minutes, some days not at all on days he works later. Not happening. I would collapse before the week is up. And I could maybe do the 3-11pm shift but that would mean seeing my husband ONE DAY A WEEK.

Ok ,when did it become a choice between keeping my health and my marriage or keeping my full time hours and my health insurance?

I have a disability. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I am entitled , under the Americans With Disabilities Act, to a reasonable accomodation for my disability. As I see it, this should at least entitle me to a request for a consistent start time during the hours I can work. To me this sounds reasonable.

When I ask for this “reasonable accommodation “ I am told management doesn’t want to know why I am submitting the available times I am listing. And then I am told if I want more hours, I have to open up my availability to all of those hours I can’t do..

I know that Walmart doesn’t give a furry rat’s behind about me as a human being and the management team is only following company policy. That doesn’t make it right.

It’s an unwinnable situation.

I have been fighting this battle for a couple of years and frankly, I have given up.

I know if I transfer to another store, the same thing will happen again. I also know if I quit and go to work for another company, I will lose a substantial amount of pay and insurance for a year and have to start over with vacation. And we can get health insurance through my husband’s job but it will cost about twice as much.

I lose no matter what I do.

And then…

And then management comes to me and tells me I need to have section work done in the next 2 hours. There’s 30 ish sections on the list. Working the sections means straightening the 4-foot section, scanning the stock on the top shelf to see if it will go out and then working it down then scanning any outs to see if they really are outs. And with our clueless stockers, your out on the shampoo aisle may be sitting on the top shelf over the body wash. If I work them properly, it can take me 10-15 minutes each to do them. I go to lunch after properly working 10 or so. (I also spent 20 minutes in the personnel office trying to find out what’s happening to my benefits when they cut me to part time.)

“Oh, you don’t have many sections to work.”

I get back from lunch to have the manager tell me I have to have the rest worked in 15 minutes. Riiiiight. When she raises her voice at me asking why it wasn’t finished, i point out that I am thorough and I look for missing things and I do it how it’s supposed to be done. And I comment about how I don’t want to cheat just to get it out of the system. So ends up they don’t want it done right, they just want it done. So I cheat on the rest of it and it still takes me over an hour. I also look her in the eye and ask her if she’s just wanting to write me up. My defense is I’m doing things correctly and she knows she has no right to get ugly with me. Just because she’s having a bad day doesn’t give her a license to crap on all the rest of us. And you back me in a corner, I will defend myself. But this is the usual management style where I work.

People don’t understand why I don’t want to go see Crystal Bridges museum. That’s the art museum Alice Walton has built to display her collection of art from American artists. I am one of thousands of people who have been exploited and used to fund the millions of dollars used to buy the collection and build the display space for the art.. I don’t know if I could look at it and not be reminded of the greed it took to acquire the money to buy the art and the faux generosity to say “oh, here you can come look at it for free”. The idea of looking at all that ostentatious display of greed chokes me.

The good things

Ok, I work at Walmart and it’s not exactly a glamorous job. Most times, not a rewarding job. Most of the time it’s just fixing things the overnight stockers got wrong and telling people what they want is either right here behind me or two aisles over or we don’t have it anymore. Some people come in with the attitude that nothing they want will be there and nothing will make them happy. 
And then there’s the little happy surprises. And they seem to come from either old people or little kids. 

I have worked at this store long enough to watch kids grow up and people grow old. The middle ages don’t change that much but both ends do. I have seen awkward kids grow into confident young adults. I have also seen some of my favorite older people slow down, start using canes and disappear. 

I started out in the photo lab where you really get to see where people live, their vacations and holiday gatherings. You see babies born, start school, where people go on vacation. It gives you a window on people’s lives. Well, digital took over photography and photo labs disappeared. I lost my career there. I miss that a lot. 

Life is what it is. 

Now, I work keeping things stocked, putting it on the shelf where customers can buy it and helping people find things. And sometimes you still get to connect with people. 

My very favorite customer is a blind woman who simply needs someone to walk her around the store and help her select groceries. I have been doing this so long, we have gotten to be good friends. We have fun talking about cooking and food and I have introduced her to new things available in the store we both like. A few years ago, she got a fabulous guide dog named Wella who is now one of my best friends too. 

Sometimes you just get used to seeing a face around and have an extra smile for that person. I never seem to learn their names but there is this one old man who reminds me of my dad and he always talks to me and teases me about something. I always have a hug for him. 

Sometimes I have to sit on the floor to straighten things or stock things and it never fails, some old person will say something about “sitting down on the job”. There’s a couple of them I have a running joke with about whether I’m sitting on the floor or not. We both get a laugh out of it. 

Then there’s the little kids. I like to smile and wave at the babies and I often get a charming smile in return. 

Yesterday, I was stocking things and as usual, I dropped one. This little boy came over, picked it up and handed it to me. I thanked him and told him he was sweet to do that. Hey, positive reinforcement can’t start too early. He might have been 4. He showed me his hot wheels car which was one of the characters from the movie Cars and I went along. A few minutes later, his mom was asking me where something was and almost before I could answer, he ran over to me and wrapped both arms around my knees and gave me a big hug. It was the sweetest moment. 

It’s people like this that make my job worthwhile.