<\body> Stories in America: Confidential Wal-Mart Memo Surfaces

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Confidential Wal-Mart Memo Surfaces

Wal-Mart Watch, a group that keeps a close eye on the Wal-Mart's business practices, recently received a copy of a confidential memo outlining ways for the company to cut employee benefit costs.

The New York Times ran a story about the memo in today's paper:

Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."

The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefit costs because critics had attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Ms. Chambers acknowledged that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.

The average pay for a Wal-Mart worker is $1,000 below the poverty line for a family of three, according to Wal-Mart Watch. The company is also currently facing the largest class action sex discrimination case in history. For additional facts, visit Wal-Mart Watch's Issues Page.

It's easy to say, "If Wal-Mart workers aren't happy, find another job." The problem is, for many, Wal-Mart is the largest employer in town. During my six-month road trip across the country, I found many towns in which Wal-Mart was the only employer in town.


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