Bay News Rising

Professional and college reporters training collaboratively for the future of Bay Area journalism. Bay News Rising is a project of the Pacific Media Workers Guild made possible by the labor and contributions of its members.

Long commutes and low wages: when working for Walmart doesn’t work

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Walmart employee Darryl Randle pulls a pallet jack during his shift. Photo by Marlene Sanchez/Bay News Rising

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by Marlene Sanchez          

 

At 33, Darryl Randle wishes he didn’t have to live with his family, but his job at Walmart doesn’t pay enough for him to live on his own—something that is unlikely to change even with a jump to $9 an hour in the state’s minimum wage.

An unloader at the discount retailer’s San Lorenzo store, Randle moves heavy materials and sorts them. He describes it as the most demanding job at the store.

After watching upbeat videos during his training, Randle looked forward to a rewarding job. Now the link on the company’s website that says, “Learn more about why our associates love working at Walmart,” makes him laugh.

“Me and my coworkers joke around and say, ‘this ain’t what ya’ll showed us in the training videos,’” Randle said. “It’s the opposite of what I thought it would be.”

He takes BART to work from Oakland, where he lives with his grandmother and sister. The trip takes about an hour and a half.

“But when I work a night shift, it takes me about two and a half hours to get home,” he said.

Randle works at least 30 hours a week  but never quite enough to qualify as full time, so he doesn’t get health coverage—a common complaint of Walmart employees.

The company offers leaves of absence — in theory. The reality is, they are almost impossible to take. And taking one can be considered a count towards termination.

“The only benefit I get is a 10 percent discount,” Randle said.

He promotes better working conditions along with coworkers nationwide who formed OUR Walmart  (OUR is an acronym for Organization United for Respect). They assemble at the retail giant’s corporate headquarters in Arkansas to strategize and to picket, brandishing signs that say, “I want to work full time” and “Stand up, live better.”

They aim to secure benefits, excused absences and paid time off for part-time employees. Already,  they’ve forced the retail giant to accommodate pregnant workers instead of forcing them into unpaid leaves.

“The reason why I’m still here is because I don’t want to get bullied,” Randle said. “Who else is going to advocate?”

 

 

marlene3@mail.sfsu.edu

 

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This entry was posted on August 11, 2014 by .
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