This is an ongoing series on working at Wal-mart and trying to survive on a retail salary.
Wal-mart, like many if not all retail establishments, experiences a significant downturn in customers after the holiday. As with any business, they cut expenses the easy way, by reducing workers' hours. Now, normally, in fantastic economic times, this wouldn't be an issue, as the retail workers probably had this as their second job. But up here, in the rust-belt, there are no second jobs to be had, and if they are, to quote one struggling single mom working at Wal-mart, they are all at home or nursing home aide worker jobs where they won' accommodate my schedule and pay the same as wal-mart does anyway.
So, we have people who work at Walmart at the max part-time available, 28-30 hours a week as their only source of income, making about $8.75 per hour. Our full-time hourly staff is considered full-time at 32 hours, and full-time staff have a moratorium on working over-time. Now, with the holidays, Our store has cut hours across the board, with some of our staff only getting nine hours a week.
I am very lucky, my hours have not been cut significantly yet. Others, like my friend A. a single mom trying to support her two year old daughter are not so lucky. I like A. she's easy to get along with, works hard to please her customers, is smart, and just an all around great person. Just a mom trying to make a somewhat decent life for her and her daughter, who she loves. Knowing its impossible to do so on her salary and no jobs up here, she still tries and never says a bad thing about Wal-mart or its policies.
Yesterday, A. came through my line with her WIC(Women and Children Food Program) vouchers. She gave her vouchers to start the process, and as I entered the starting date into the computer, a loud long warning beep sounded, and I looked again at the paperwork. A.'s voucher wasn't good until two days from now. I handed back the voucher and said, I'm sorry but this voucher doesn't start until later in the week. A.s face crumpled and she said, "Goddamnit,(as a strong catholic, she never swears) I need milk for my daughter and I don't know how i am going to get it." I asked her if she had her food stamp(EBT) card with her, and she fought back tears telling me that they cut her food stamps back to $30.00 a month because two months ago, she was working 32 hours a week. She just sighed, and I said, no problem, I have extra money this week I will go buy some food for you. I turned off my light and shut down my register(pissing off my customers waiting in line and earning me a coaching from my assistant manager, Wal-mart's euphemism for "you did a bad thing, and now this is on your work record") and ran back to my locker to grab my wallet and debit card for her to buy milk and some food for her and her child.
It's not really true, I didn't have extra money this week, but you know, I can live on beans, rice, peanut butter and apples for the week, two year olds need milk.
The thing is, we just had a our holiday party, and our store spent $6,000 dollars on a meal for us, as a co-worker said as we looked at our brown lettuce salad and stale rolls, wouldn't it have been nice if they had just added that money on to our paychecks and let us buy milk for our children?
9:12 AM PT: I don't know why i can't comment. But i want to assure you I am fine. I actually love beans and rice, and am making peanut butter cookies. The heat's on, and I have to go to work in a couple of hours.