Walmart is hiring, though it’s up to you whether you want to expose yourself to a deadly virus.
If you need a “to die for” job during the coronavirus crisis, Walmart is hiring. The retail giant recently announced plans to bring on 150,000 new workers. In addition to a paltry paycheck, you’ll allegedly get to work with condescending, micromanaging supervisors and plenty of entitled asshole customers. Better still, you’ll “serve your community,” i.e. risk exposing yourself to COVID-19 while you grovel around on the floor for those more fortunate.
What exactly is each of us saying when we say nothing about working conditions that some of Walmart’s employees allege are dangerous and inhumane? We’re saying that it’s OK for other people to get sick and possibly die during the coronavirus pandemic as long as our own fat asses can eat.
The classification of grocery and pharmacy clerks as essential workers is asinine, one more way for mega-corporations to rake in profits across the backs of some of our country’s poorest, most at-risk people. Many of them are involuntary part-timers with no healthcare benefits, which automatically bars them from receiving adequate care if they do fall ill.
States have shut down, many businesses are shuttered across North Texas, and Dallas County has issued a stay-at-home order. Schools are closed. Health officials recommend that no more than 10 people gather for any reason. That sounds pretty serious and restrictive.
In contrast, Walmart –– the largest private employer in Texas, the country, and the world –– is steaming ahead carte blanche. In Texas alone, there are 171,500 Walmart employees in 600 stores and other facilities. Nationwide, Walmart has an estimated 1.5 million employees.
Try your own experiment the next time you go to Walmart. Ask the employees if they have cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, or face masks. Ask them if there’s a single spray bottle of disinfectant for the cash registers and counter tops? Do you observe any of these things?
Something isn’t adding up.
Unlike the average person or business, Walmart is profiting from the coronavirus outbreak. Sales are surging to record highs.
True, Walmart is offering jobs right now to people who otherwise might not have an income, but at what cost? The company is touting a $300 bonus for full-time workers and a $150 bonus for part-timers. It claims to be easing its attendance policies to allow workers to take time off if they’re sick or “uncomfortable” coming into work. Walmart says it will also provide healthcare for any employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
None of this seems proportional to a company run by the Walton family, heirs to Walmart’s founder, Sam Walton. In all, the family has a net worth of more than $196 billion. As a company, Walmart makes about $3.8 billion in annual profits.
More warm bodies and throwaway cogs are needed to keep the cash rolling in and make even more money off frightened consumers, but recruiting employees into the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic is tricky, so Walmart is reaching out to restaurant workers and others who have already lost jobs.
Desperate people do desperate things.
On Sunday, The Guardian ran a story titled “Target and Walmart aren’t protecting staff amid pandemic, workers say.” Among workers’ complaints are a lack of sanitation, zero paid time off, and crowded stores full of potentially infected customers.
Cynthia Murray, who has reportedly worked as a Walmart associate in Laurel, Maryland, for 19 years, blasted Doug McMillon, Walmart’s president and CEO, for saying some of the store’s parking lots may serve as drive-in coronavirus test sites.
Murray said the move will likely bring more potentially ill people into direct contact with Walmart employees.
“They are not really doing anything to protect us from the coronavirus,” she told The Guardian.
Albertsons is one store that seems to be trying to be humane. Published reports indicate that the grocery chain is installing plexiglass barriers in its checkout lanes as buffers between cashiers and customers. The chain also plans to temporarily boost employee pay.
As an editorial in The Hill points out, retail and pharmacy workers need more during this crisis. That includes health benefits, access to health safety gear, and strict limits on the number of people allowed in a store at the same time, to name a few.
“We cannot leave it to grocery and pharmacy corporations to ‘do the right thing’ –– many of them have fought vigorously against paid sick and family leave and safety protections in the past –– but the government must implement these crucial measures without delay,” The Hill says.