Wal-Mart’s Latest Markdown

Wal-Mart’s Latest Markdown

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Taking time out from its nonstop coverage of the “early admission” policies of a few elite colleges — could this newspaper appeal to an even tinier, more rarefied demographic? — the New York Times ran a good front-page story this morning on Wal-Mart’s new plan, as revealed in an internal memo, to implement pay caps and increase the percentage of part-time employees in its workforce.

Obviously, some at the company didn’t feel the workers were exploited enough! The paper also reported something that I have been hearing from Wal-Mart workers for a long time; scheduling is essentially at the whim of managers, particularly impossible for workers who have children, but hard on all workers struggling to plan their lives (and their budgets, given that they might work 20 hours one week, and eight the next).

It’s important that the affluent, urban consumers that Wal-Mart so badly needs not be seduced by the retailer’s new offerings — 400-threadcount sheets, organic food and Earth’s-new-best-friend image — but keep the pressure on the company to improve work conditions, by continuing to shop elsewhere, and to protest Wal-Mart’s ever-insistent expansion. The company is betting that its new target — the Starbucks customer — doesn’t really care about workers’ rights, but will go starry-eyed at the first few nebulous signs of “corporate responsibility.”

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