The past 96 hours have seen what may be one of the biggest swindles ever perpetrated by a major company on its workers. And it came from a company with a long history of sticking it to its workers–Walmart.
On Thursday, Walmart announced that thanks to the recently-passed tax reform bill, newly hired employees will start out earning $11 an hour–an increase of $2 per hour. Additionally, employees will also receive one-time bonuses ranging from $200 to $1,000, depending on experience. Not surprisingly, Donald Trump was absolutely giddy about it–and was quick to take the credit.
Great news, as a result of our TAX CUTS & JOBS ACT! pic.twitter.com/SLvhLxP3Jl
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2018
In truth, though, according to ThinkProgress, Walmart really didn’t have a choice. Not only have many of its competitors boosted their starting wages, but a number of states have increased their minimum wage above $10.
At the same time these bonuses were being announced, Walmart was also shuttering dozens of Sam’s Clubs. The move came with virtually no warning; many club employees arrived for work to find the doors locked. According to Business Insider, others only learned they had lost their jobs when FedEx delivered letters to their homes.
ThinkProgress put together a mashup of how local stations were chronicling the cruel surprise that greeted many Sam’s Club workers at the same time Walmart was being praised to the heavens on national television. Watch here.
Based on accounts from local stations and Sam’s Club workers, Business Insider estimates that 63 Sam’s Clubs nationwide have been closed, with about 9,400 workers being laid off. A number of the affected clubs will close within the next few weeks, while the others were those that were closed with no warning on Thursday. Three of the affected clubs are in Puerto Rico, which is still reeling from Hurricane Maria.
According to Sam’s Club CEO John Furner, the shuttered clubs were reportedly in locations that took business from neighboring clubs, and where “population had not grown as anticipated.” He also said that ten of the closed clubs will become distribution centers for SamsClub.com, and the employees at those clubs will get a chance to reapply for those jobs. That’s good and well–but why not give some sort of notice to workers and customers?
Later that day, Bloomberg learned that Walmart was about to lay off 3,500 co-managers, who serve as second-in-command to the store managers. They will be effectively replaced with 1,700 assistant manager positions at lower salaries. The affected co-managers will have a chance to reapply for the assistant manager posts. Walmart billed this as an effort to become more efficient in a world where e-commerce is growing. But the timing of this announcement is curious at best.
This isn’t the first time that Walmart has pulled a fast one on its workers. Back in 2015, it closed five stores in three states, supposedly due to longstanding plumbing problems. However, the closures were announced with virtually no warning, and there is no evidence that the supposed repairs demanded a closure. More seriously, Walmart didn’t appear to obtain the permits needed for major plumbing repairs. Some workers at the affected stores suspect that Walmart closed their stores because they were demanding more pay. Whatever the case, the manner in which this was handled absolutely reeks.
This move by Walmart has an equally rank odor about it. It’s yet more proof of the price we actually pay for the low prices Walmart touts so breathlessly. They’re delivering those prices on the backs of their workers.
(featured image courtesy Brandon Rush, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)