The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, April 19, 11:08 p.m.

Wal-Mart’s latest heal care fiasco newest reason to boycott

You know what people can’t stop talking about? Wal-Mart. It’s all over the place because suddenly everyone’s realizing they treat their employees like crap. As the nation’s largest private employer, lots of poor souls have the misfortune of working there — roughly 1.4 million, according to the Internet. Maybe you’re one of them, in which case, I’m sorry the money-grubbing higher-ups aren’t taking good care of you.

This fall, Wal-Mart has been criticized for short changing its employees — by doing things like denying them overtime pay — and now the folks at the top have decided that they can whisk away employee health benefits at the drop of a hat. I don’t really know why this is getting media buzz now, but newsflash: Wal-Mart is a terrible place to work, and if you do work there, it doesn’t deserve your loyalty.

Here’s the company logic behind the health care decision: They’re not obligated to give insurance to employees who work under 30 hours a week, even if they sometimes work more than and occasionally dip under 30 hours. Most employees are signed on as strictly part-time, because the labor is cheaper.

A friend of mine literally got fired for working over 30 hours, so I have to imagine that precious few employees — namely managers and key-holders — are getting any insurance at all. Experts say that most part-time Wal-Mart employees make such little money that they’ll be covered under Medicaid, since the program has been expanded by Obamacare. Basically, the corporation is shifting the burden of insurance from itself to the federal government.

Remember labor unions? I sure don’t. Then again, I’m just a baby. I’m told they were great: They kept ninnies like Donald Trump from crapping in people’s oatmeal too much. What happened to them? Contracts started explicitly forbidding unionizing because business owners were tired of being accountable to their employees.

Sure, some of them are still around, and they’ve been protesting for months, but has anything come of it? I sure don’t think so. Wal-Mart is markedly refusing to change after several months of protests, and why would they? The protests aren’t doing anything. Even a strike would be ineffective because Wal-Mart could just turn around and fire everyone involved and hire new people who are desperate for jobs.

This is where the big problem is: Wal-Mart is taking advantage of the nation’s lower-class because there is no shortage of poor people willing to work. If people are willing to work in these poor conditions, then employers can treat the employees however they want. Personally, I’d need a little more incentive on days like Black Friday where customers have been known to trample employees to death for a shot at a 40-inch television.

Here’s the issue: Times are tough and people need jobs. I applied at Wal-Mart this summer and didn’t even score an interview. I’m a normal, white dude with retail experience and I’m still not on the callback list. What more of an advantage could I have? I’m not worried for myself — I consider my estrangement from Wal-Mart to be a blessing in disguise — but think of the people who are actually disadvantaged, like people who don’t have any retail experience. How are these people going to find the money to go to college?

I’d encourage everyone to stop shopping at Wal-Mart; you’d be doing yourself, me and the disgruntled Wal-Mart employees a favor. What’s with the smiley logo, anyway? When I go to Wal-Mart, I don’t see smiles — from the customers OR employees — I see a dreadful warehouse full of fluorescent lights and bath-salts abusers.