Tag Archives: Wal-Mart

Union-Backed Group Pushes for Better Security at Wal-Mart

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Recently, a Wal-Mart employee in Norfolk, Nebraska, was cut on the wrist by an intoxicated customer at 2:45 a.m. Unfortunately, these types of incidents are all too common at Wal-Marts, which is why one group is taking action.

The UFCW-backed group, Making Change at Wal-Mart, is pushing for increased security at Wal-Mart in the wake of an investigation by Businessweek that on average, one Wal-Mart a day is hit by a violent crime. The issue of crime at Wal-Mart is a safety issue for employees as well as shoppers.

Wal-Mart’s crime rate is six times higher than its nearest competitor, Target. Security experts attribute this in part to the fact that Wal-Mart stores have less staffing than Target stores, and that Target spends more on security. Experts also attribute Wal-Mart’s higher crime rate to the fact that it stays open 24 hours a day. The recent injury to the Wal-Mart employee in Norfolk, Nebraska, highlights the risk of overnight retail work.

Beech Grove, Indiana, Mayor Dennis Buckley became so fed up with police calls to the Wal-Mart in his town that he had Wal-Mart declared a public nuisance and fined Wal-Mart $2,500 for every police call. Mayor Buckley’s actions underscore the role that local government can play in ensuring the safety and security of retail employees. Convenience-store clerks are also vulnerable to violent crime on the job. Cities like Irving, Texas, and Milwaukee have passed city ordinances mandating security for convenience-store clerks. Both Omaha and Lincoln have city elections coming in a few months, so voters and groups supporting workers should press the candidates on the issue of retail-worker safety.

States, who traditionally oversee workers’ compensation, should consider using their 10th -amendment police powers to protect retail workers. For example, the Indiana Department of Labor did a study documenting violence against convenience-store clerks. Finally, injuries to retail workers through violent crime are covered by workers’ compensation. State workers’ compensation systems need to remain viable so unscrupulous retailers are not able to shift the costs of violent crime against their employees onto taxpayers.

Workers Risk Injury During Holiday Shopping Season

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday as it is known, is anticipated by millions of Americans as a fun holiday shopping tradition that marks the beginning of the Christmas season. But crowded stores and the hunt for bargains can create hazards for shoppers and retail workers. For example, in 2008, a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death outside a store in New York City.

But leaving aside the extreme examples of hazards, the holiday shopping season poses many less-publicized risks to retail workers.

The first risk posed to holiday workers, especially on a day like Black Friday, is the additional risk of injuries on overnight shifts. The National Institutes of Health reported that the risk of injury on an overnight shift is 30 percent higher than during a day shift. That same report also quoted a British report that showed that work injuries increased exponentially for every hour worked in a shift after eight hours. This is a risk when employees work long hours over the Black Friday weekend and when employees, many who are working another job, come to their holiday jobs after they have already worked a full day. Finally, new and temporary employees, including many holiday workers, face a higher risk for injury.

Today marks the so-called Cyber Monday, when shoppers traditionally place online orders. Online shopping has increased the need for delivery drivers. Delivery driving can be a hazardous job, due to lifting and the risk of motor-vehicle accidents. The risk of delivery driving is compounded by the fact that many delivery drivers are misclassified as independent contractors, so they lack protections like workers’ compensation. One recent story from The Indpendent out of the U.K. revealed that contract delivery drivers for Amazon.com were paid less than the minimum wage and were forced to urinate and defecate in their vehicles to make their deliveries in a timely manner.

Holiday workers face all of these risks for pay that is generally low. Plus, if an injury from a temporary holiday job prevents a person from working their regular, full-time job, that employee faces difficult issues maintaining both employment and benefits with the main, full-time employer.

If there is anything positive about the coverage of Black Friday, it’s helpful that workplace violence among low-wage workers gets covered. Among the most vulnerable to violence are convenience store clerks working overnight shifts. The Indiana Department of Labor did a study that showed 32 convenience store clerks were killed on the job in 2010. Last summer, a clerk was shot at a northwest Lincoln Kwik Shop, here in Nebraska. That murder was covered as a crime story here in Lincoln. However, that murder and the murders like it all across the country should also be covered as workplace-safety stories.

Wal-Mart & McDonald’s: Passing the Buck to Taxpayers

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Came across this post today: “How McDonald’s and Wal-Mart Became Welfare Queens.”  News like this has become so commonplace that you almost accept it with a shrug.   Yeah, big box stores and fast food chains are paying their workers cruddy wages, forcing them to go on state health insurance and food stamp assistance.  Oh well.  Move along.  Nothing to see here.

But the outrage should exist.  These stories make my blood boil.  Many of these companies are making massive profits.  You’re telling me you can’t pay a living wage?  All of us, as taxpayers, are helping pad the the coffers of these companies.  By not providing sufficient wages or health care, the actual taxpayers serve as the necessary social safety net for these workers.  Is that really how we want our society and country structured?

Admittedly my experience is anectodal, but I see a number of these workers in my practice–from the greeters at Wal-Mart to those flipping burgers at McDonald’s.  Many are making a minimum hourly wage of $7.25.  No matter how hard they work (and, in my experience, some of these fast food and retail workers are the hardest workers out there, in light of their work condition), they cannot get ahead or make enough to avoid the necessity of seeking food stamp assistance or of searching for the local food pantry.  

Corporations simply should not be able to get rich on the public’s back.  As taxpayers, we continue to allow this grossly one-sided equation to continue.

 

Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire: Another Triangle Shirtwaist Fire?

A garment fire in Bangladesh killed 112 workers last week

Today’s post comes from guest author Tom Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

A garment fire in Bangladesh killed 112 workers last week, harkening back to the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist fire 100 years ago on March 24, 1911, which claimed the lives of 146 young men and women, mostly immigrant garment workers. The Triangle fire galvanized a broad spectrum of reformers and reforms, one of which was worker’s compensation. In the aftermath of the Triangle fire, many states adopted worker’s compensation laws. (Wisconsin’s was the very first constitutional law in 1911.) Other reforms included workplace safety regulations, child labor laws, and enhanced fire inspections, among others.

There is a growing effort by worker groups to demand safety reforms in Bangladesh where factory fires have killed hundreds of workers in recent years.

An additional tragedy in the Bangladesh fire, whose products are sold here in America Mart, was the revelation that managers may have lowered gates to prevent employees from leaving because they thought it was a false alarm. There is a growing effort by worker groups to demand safety reforms in Bangladesh where factory fires have killed hundreds of workers in recent years. Photos taken by workers showed labels for Wal-Mart’s private label Faded Glory in the remains, along with clothing for a number of other United States labels including work wear brand Dickies.

The analogies to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire are striking. In that fire, people on the 10th floor, mostly in administrative offices, were able to escape to the roof of an adjoining building. Workers on the 8th floor fled using the stairs, the fire escape and elevators. However, Continue reading