Clean Up on Aisle 14

Whether or not Wal-Mart is going to be found guilty in any of the discrimination lawsuits it is currently facing, one thing is for certain: Wal-Mart is feeling guilty. In the “Staffing at Wal-Mart” case study, we see evidence that supports the claim that women are treated differently than men in the work place. Wal-Mart, it seems, is trying to make amends. 

After reading about Wal-Mart’s legal battle with gender discrimination, it seemed clear to me that there was a company wide issue and not just a managerial issue, as the corporate executives are preaching. If 2/3 of your managerial staff is male but 70% of your hourly wage employees are female (hourly wage employees get promoted to manager) then there is most definitely an issue with the promotion process. The other factor is that hourly wage employees make around $18,000 a year while managers make $50,000 a year. This becomes a huge issue when 70% of your employees making $18,000 a year are female while 2/3 of your employees making $50,000 a year are male. Clearly Wal-Mart has some Human Resources issues to figure out, and they need to do it quickly.

So what is Wal-Mart doing while the executives insist that they haven’t violated the 14th Amendment by discriminating against women? According to a news article in the New York Times that was published on September 14th, 2011, they have been trying to counter the discriminatory stigma that befallen the corporate giant. Wal-Mart has been busy promoting women’s rights by helping women owned business and women workers. In what could be seen as guilt money, Wal-Mart has pledged to source $20 billion worth of products from women-run business over the next 5 years. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like Wal-Mart is trying to rectify a wrong it knows it committed by covering its ass and trying to make it seem like Wal-Mart has been a champion for women in the workplace all along. And before you start thinking that Wal-Mart is allocating a lot of its resources towards women-owned business you need to look at the $4 billion a year in perspective. According to the same New York Times article, the $4 billion a year allotted for women’s businesses is just 5% of Wal-Mart’s operating expenses.

One could argue that Wal-Mart’s brand name has been tarnished by the allegations of gender discrimination and that is why the company is doing all of this. To that I would retort that if the company truly wasn’t at fault then the statistics in the case study would be quite different and the company could show that the discriminations are isolated instances. Unfortunately, this is not the case. For a company that can sniff out union members at the drop of a hat, there is no way that Wal-Mart didn’t realize what was going on.

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10 Responses to Clean Up on Aisle 14

  1. tpm011 says:

    I think instead of reallocating business towards more women owned business Wal-mart should just pay the average worker more

  2. meganm423 says:

    I agree that Wal-Mart knew what was going on. I’m sure they wanted to sweep the issue of gender discrimination under the rug. Clearly, this was not going to happen due to the class action suit that was brought against them. I also agree with you that their pledge to support female owned business is a ploy to save their ass. It’s all about PR and trying to maintain a good face to the general public. The sad thing is it will probably work and people will still continue to shop at Wal-Mart just because it offers the best price.

  3. tesoman says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you Chris. And to the point of paying the hourly workers more, I have been in a Human Resources Management class that has looked a little into WalMart this semester alone. It is very surprising, but the $18,000/year (or appx $6.41/hr: 6 day weeks and 9hr days) is actually lower than the poverty level income in America. WalMart is paying its employees lower than the poverty level. They have a medicare package for their employees that has a $200 co-payment that most cannot afford after paying for bills and other necessities. In the book, The “The Working Poor: Invisible in America” by David Shipler, a manager working at WalMart is asked what it would take to increase everyone’s wage in the store to $10 and he replied with, “It wouldn’t be that difficult, we might have to sacrifice some balloons and other decorations during holiday periods but nothing else.” $10 would put the workers at WalMart at just over $28,000/year……..

    • Jordi says:

      Thanks for bringing in that info from your other class. I read an analysis of a W-M annual report that showed in 2005, a one cent increase in prices (across the board) would equal a $1 increase in non-supervisory employee hourly wage. Would anyone stop shopping there because milk is $1.49 instead of $1.48?

  4. Jordi says:

    If you want to dig into some of the complexities of Wal-Mart, this EPI paper brings some interesting facts to light. My favorite is that the amount of stuff WM sells that low wage folks can buy has increased over time, but the price of health, housing, education, an transportation has gone up. So, if you work at WalMart you can buy more cheap crap with your stagnant salary, but not the items you may want or need more.

  5. KCasty says:

    After reading this case about Walmart, I almost feel guilty about shopping at the Walmart on route 15 and subsequently supporting a company that has such obvious discriminatory practices in place. For me, Walmart’s attempts mentioned above to rectify the situation are too little, too late. However, as Jordi mentioned, in a place such as Lewisburg, it is easier said than done to boycott Walmart. In such a small town, there are not many other options of food stores that offer such low prices or are so convenient unless one is willing to drive to Selinsgrove. It just goes to show that companies can get away with a lot more if there are not options of alternative companies for the same desired products.

  6. Jordi says:

    I can’t believe no one has started a small grocer in the borough that does home delivery. You buy, they deliver. Just hire a couple of kids to walk the orders to your home. This is what they do in Barcelona where no one can drive to shop.

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