Many of you know through lightbulb's diaries, how absolutely abysmal the treatment of retail workers by retail corporations really is. Today, I'd like to explore retail corporation's sick day policy, specifically at Wal-mart, how it impacts not only the workers' health, but the communities they serve.
Dawn, my first work friend and Customer Service Supervisor has worked for Wal-mart for over 10 years. She is hands down, the best CSS/CSM(customer service manager) our store has at the moment. She solves problems well, stays on top of long lines, takes care of the cashiers and the customers with professionalism and dignity. Two days ago, after I clocked in and reported to the podium for my assigned register, Dawn's face was flushed, her eyes bloodshot and her hands were shaking. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, "I am sick, I have a hundred and two temperature, I am throwing up and I CAN'T go home." Immediately, I understood exactly what she was saying, she had no more call in days available to her, and had to either come to work or be pulled back into the AD(manager's) office, told she had used up all her call in days, sent home forced to write an essay(called a Decision Day-or D-day) on this day off, bring it back to the managers, where they would decide if the essay met some unknown standard, either fire her or keep her. Dawn instead chose to do a tardy, in which she would go home after putting in four hours of her shift. Three tardies make and absence, so a tardy is much more doable than absence for a lot of poeple. A lot of our really sick workers will work four hours and then tell management they are heading home to avoid having an absence count against them.
So, what is the absence policy Wal-mart, and to be fair, other retailers have? It's a complicated system of Rolling sick days in a six month period. For example, if I call in sick today, June 19th, this sick day counts against me. I will, until December 19th, have this one absence count against me. Then this absence will "drop off" and I will have an additional day I can call in to play with. I am allowed three call-ins in a rolling six month period. Currently, I am not able to call in until August 19th, when I will drop down to two again another date will fall off come September. It's fine I don't forsee any health problems in the near future, but last night my elderly parent fell out of bed, and if it had been more serious, and if I hadn't structured my days off so I do get two days off in a row, I might now be telling a manager where they can put the D-Day essay they wanted me to write.
When you explain this to workers with more sane sick day policies they say, well I only get so many sick days a calendar year, at least yours drops off. But, here's the thing, I have worked at other companies and corporations where I was only alloted five or sometimes three sick days a year. I also had personal days, and vacation days. And, if I had truly used up all my sick days, my bosses would rather me stay home sick than infect the employees and clients/customers. I might not have gotten paid, I might even had been asked if I needed to take a leave, but I wouldn't have gotten fired.
The result is that the idea of a D-Day and writing an essay on why Wal-mart should keep you is not worth the hassle to a lot of our workers. I told managers I won't write an essay, they can just fire me on the spot. We have people who can't call in sick until December 17th of this year. This policy is even responsible for one CSM having a heart attack on the floor during the dinner rush hour because she didn't want to call in sick even though she had been having chest pains all day. Also add in fact the Wal-mart's insurance is pretty much junk insurance(I chose the middle of the road option and STILL have a $5,000 deductible) most of us, even those of us with health insurance rarely if ever go get check-ups, or have our little issues checked out by the doctors. Add in the fact that Wal-mart's scheduling most of us work until midnight and turn right around and head back in for a 6:30 am shift. We are tired, always on the edge of being sick, if not outright sick and stressed from being overworked.
So, that's our call in policy and how it drags workers in who are sick and should be in home in bed resting instead of stocking juicy fruit next to the registers and listening to a manager yell because the ATM machine is out again.
Here's where it impacts the community. We work with the general public and see a broad cross-section of people in our store, including the elderly, the chronically ill, and children. Imagine for one moment something like anti-biotic resistant whooping cough makes a comeback in our area(one of our cashiers just got diagnosed with whooping cough). Now imagine you or your elderly mother who has a compromised immune system is shopping and ringing out her items at the register of a sick cashier. The items your mother is buying has been touched by the sick cashier not to mention the debit reader pen that the cashier disentangled from the last customer or cash if your mom uses that. Now as a good customer maybe your mom might have said, "you should be in bed" which is appreciated, cashiers don't receive enough kindnesses, but the sad reality is that cashier can't be in bed, She didn't call in, because Wal-mart would rather have sick workers in, rather than do what is right and protect both their workers and the community they say they care about. So, if you want to help, please don't shop at Wal-mart and call or email them and let them know that you refuse to shop there until their workers are healthy.