Monday, January 19, 2004

Wal-Mart, believed to be the world's largest retailer, is under fire for reportedly locking in overnight workers at many of its stores, sometimes to the detriment of their own safety.

The New York Times reported yesterday a number of cases in which employees were allegedly prevented from leaving a store when they were injured, unwell or, as in one case in Florida, when a hurricane struck the area.

Michael Rodriguez, who works at a Wal-Mart store in Texas and waited an hour for colleagues to free him from beneath fallen machinery as they searched for a key, said: "It isn't right. You could have been bleeding to death and they'll have you locked in."

Wal-Mart officials said a lock-in policy operated in some stores and had done for up to 15 years. But they said the stores were either in high crime areas or at risk of "shrinkage", a euphemism for theft by employees.

Nonetheless the latest charges can only tarnish Wal-Mart's image and strengthen its reputation as a company that combines sophisticated 21st-century retailing techniques with 19th-century-style treatment of its employees

The Times had a better article on this one, but the link'll expire in a couple days, so here's this one. Endless stories of employees vomiting, bleeding, listening to hurricanes crashing down overhead and trapped behind fire doors (which were occasionally chained shut) with strict orders to NEVER open them unless there was actually a, y'know, fire. Bleeding, vomiting, crushed bones need not apply. And even smaller deals, like having employees clock out at 1 a.m. to prevent them from getting overtime, but keeping them locked in until six or seven until a manager with a key shows up.

When I worked at G. Fox as a kid we occasionally did this, too. All night store-cleaning binges with the doors locked, the phones killed and the security cameras running full steam ahead. But despite the potential for fines, there was never an admonishment to stay away from the fire doors if there was an emergency.

Then again, Wal-Mart's just fucking evil. We all know that by now, right?

Good. Go on with your day.

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