Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sunday Will Never Be the Same

Leave it to Wal-Mart to bring back the old Spanky and Our Gang song, "Sunday Will Never Be The Same." Word now comes from Bloomberg News, that the mega-retailer wants to change its Sunday compensation rules: "Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the U.S., plans to stop paying staff there an additional $1 an hour for working Sundays, taking a bite out of its single biggest expense. The move, which takes effect next year, applies only to employees hired after Jan. 1, spokesman Greg Rossiter said in an interview yesterday. The move wouldn’t affect the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer’s 1.4 million current U.S. staff."

Sure, as if that staff has that much longevity to begin with-and as the turnover increases the expenses for the Walmonster go down-at the expense of the wage worker. But all of this occurs in a climate of retrenchment for Wal-Mart: "Since taking over almost two years ago, Chief Executive Officer Mike Duke has pledged to slow cost growth as the retailer copes with six straight quarters of sales declines at U.S. stores open at least a year. Operating expenses rose to about $80 billion last year, partly because of health benefits."

Which is why Big Wally was such a fan of government run health care-anything to get someone else to take care of its workforce: "It’s sad -- people who work on Sunday need that extra dollar,” Cynthia Murray, a Wal-Mart employee at a supercenter in Laurel, Maryland, said in an interview. Murray said she makes $11.20 an hour, and doesn’t work Sundays."

This is a further example of how Wal-Mart leads the race to the bottom-the industry leader in reducing labor costs while, at the same time, putting out Mom and Pop stores wherever it goes: "Wal-Mart’s move reflects a change in workplace reality, said Craig Rowley, a vice president of the retail practice at the consulting firm Hay Group in Dallas. According to an annual survey conducted by Hay, only 20 percent of retailers still offer any sort of Sunday premium, Rowley said in an interview today. “It’s a declining practice,” he said. “When retailers first started opening their stores on Sundays, it was common to have the premium because they were asking employees to do something they never had to do before. But today, working retail requires that you work weekends -- it’s part of the job.”

And Mike Bloomberg objects to a living wage in this kind of environment? Wal-Mart must really be struggling-and that is why it is desperate to cannibalize NYC retailers: "The decision represents a blow to hourly workers, said Dorian Warren, an assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University who studies labor relations. ‘Wage Cut’ “It amounts to a huge wage cut,” said Warren. “Wal-Mart has been underperforming financially relative to its competitors and needs to find quick ways to shore up profits.”

So NYC needs to bail these bad actors out? "The company is obsessive about labor costs, not just to save money in the coming quarter but to encourage turnover, which also keeps wages low,” Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara said in an e-mail message. Lichtenstein wrote “The Retail Revolution: How Wal- Mart Created a Brave New World of Business.”

At a time when small business is in crisis in NYC we don't need this cost cutting, female employee discriminating, predator coming in and performing the eulogy for neighborhood retailers. Next Tuesday we will be gathering at City Hall to shed the harsh light of reality on the Walmonster-a company that can't bear the scrutiny of all of its bad actions.