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Someone explain to me why people think that I lose my right to criticize Wal-Mart, a horrible corporation that ultimately fired me, because I once worked there.

April 14, 2010, 8:49 PM

Someone explain that to me. Someone explain to me why I should not criticize Wal-Mart because I once worked there, despite having been treated rather poorly while there, and ultimately fired for nonsense reasons. Someone explain to me why the fact that they once employed me makes them above criticism as far as I should be concerned.

I was on the phone with my mother today, as I usually am right after work while walking to the Metro, and the conversation today turned to Wal-Mart. I came down pretty hard on the Wal-Mart issue this time, as I was quick to call them a horrible corporation that does not buy American, squeezing their suppliers so hard that many of them are forced to move production overseas to cut costs in order to meet Wal-Mart’s demands.

And let’s not forget Wal-Mart’s stance on labor relations, as written on page two of Labor Relations and You at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center #6022: “Wal-Mart is opposed to unionization of its associates. Any suggestion that the Company is neutral on the subject or that it encourages associates to join labor organizations is not true.” In addition, from the same document, “We firmly believe we are capable of running our own Company without any assistance from an outside third party.” Additionally, from page two of A Manager’s Toolbox To Remaining Union Free, it states, “Wal-Mart is strongly opposed to third-party representation. We are not anti-union; we are pro-associate. We believe in maintaining an environment of open communication among all associates, both hourly and management. At Wal-Mart, we respect the individual rights of our associates and encourage everyone to express his/her ideas, suggestions, comments or concerns. Because we believe in maintaining an environment of open communication through the use of the Open Door policy, we do not believe there is a need for third-party representation. It is our position every associate can speak for him/herself without having to pay his/her hard-earned money to a union in order to be listened to and have issues resolved.”

See, therein lies the rub. Wal-Mart will listen, and then ignore. After all, “United we stand, divided we fall,” as the old saying goes. “We must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.” As long as the employees are individuals, and not united as a group, Wal-Mart can crush them like a bug. When the workers get together and band together to form a union, Wal-Mart is obligated by law to come to the table with them and negotiate salaries and benefits. And based on the passages I’ve quoted, Wal-Mart doesn’t want to do that, even going so far as to close down stores to keep unions out.

But what does that have to do with my mother? My mother strongly supports Wal-Mart, due to her mostly positive experience working at Wal-Mart’s corporate fitness center in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a swim instructor. She went on explaining what a wonderful company Wal-Mart was, and how Wal-Mart was good to me for hiring me in 2003, and thus I shouldn’t criticize a company that was so good to me for giving me a job. I countered with the fact that the Wal-Mart from Sam Walton’s day (she even met him a few times) that Mom worked for no longer exists, replaced by a greedy company that earns its money by crushing anyone it considers a threat. But Mom would hear nothing of it, even though I should know of Wal-Mart’s true post-Sam-Walton nature, having worked for them for three years more than a decade after Mom left Wal-Mart.

Additionally, why should I hold Wal-Mart with any sort of reverence? They threw me out like yesterday’s trash, after all.

One of the more amusing moments to me was when Mom said that I should ask the average Wal-Mart associate about what they think of Wal-Mart. I responded that I was the average associate when I was there. Additionally, what’s the point of asking the average rank-and-file employee about Wal-Mart’s corporate policies regarding labor relations and product sourcing? They have no control over such matters, nor does Wal-Mart’s head office really give a rat’s patootie about what the employees think (if they did, their “grassroots” survey would allow for free-form responses).

It started to feel like I was in a “debate dungeon”, like where the pundits shout over each other on live television. Seriously, that discussion was getting nowhere. We’ve gotten in this argument before, and I have a feeling that I’ll never convince her of how truly rotten a company Wal-Mart is. When I got fired, I even went so far as to sell the stock that I had gotten in Wal-Mart’s stock purchase program over the course of the three years I worked for them. After all, I knew I was going to be critical of them, and no one was going to accuse me of hypocrisy, being openly critical of them while at the same time owning stock in the company and potentially benefitting from that. The stock is gone, and the gloves are off.

I think we could easily have gone on arguing for some time despite that both sides knew going in that they probably wouldn’t convince the other, except that there’s a dead zone in the tunnel between Dupont Circle and Farragut North, and so I would lose my cell signal in the tunnel. So I had to sign off, saying that I was on the train and would lose the signal regardless in less than a minute.

So basically, I have no reason to have any kind of respect for Wal-Mart, considering their various practices and what they did to me. Respect is not bestowed, demanded, or otherwise inherently deserved. Respect is earned, and respect can be lost. And one’s past employment status with an organization does not mean that they deserve to be placed on a pedestal, or be immune from criticism.

Web site: From UFCW, see Wal-Mart's anti-union manuals for yourself, and you'll see why Wal-Mart is the scum of the earth.

Song: Wal-Mart anti-union video. Seriously, they show videos similar to this during Wal-Mart orientation. Makes you want to throw something at the computer monitor. It's funny that they talk about unions contributing to political campaigns. All is fair in love and politics, after all. Wal-Mart warns their employees about what Democratic victories might do (therefore not-so-subtly encouraging employees to vote against their own best interests), and so labor unions can certainly support candidates that will work for their members' best interests.

Quote: Meanwhile, remind me to delve more deeply into the topic of respect some time...

Categories: Family, Walmart