A food drive this time of year is a common sight. At church or school or the grocery store, we drop in a few cans of peas and corn from the backs of our cupboards, temporarily reminded that there are needy folks in our community.
An unnamed Walmart employee stumbled on this "demoralizing" scenario two weeks ago, in an employees-only area near her locker. She told Cleveland.com that she's never seen a "for employees, by employees" food drive being organized before, so she decided to send photographic evidence to OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart), the group that has been orchestrating strikes and protests nationwide, including Black Friday demonstrations.
Many say the gesture, surely sanctioned by Walmart higher-ups, is proof that the store needs to pay their associates more. Walmart spokespeople say it's not about the wages; it's about extenuating circumstances. A husband who can no longer contribute because he's in jail. A chronically ill child. A car in the shop.
Everyone occasionally experiences a drag on their finances. We all have to prioritize. But for most full-time workers in America, that doesn't mean sacrificing the Thanksgiving turkey.
The average Walmart associate makes $8.87 an hour, based on Glassdoor's reviews. The average Thanksgiving dinner costs $49.04. That translates to five and a half hours of work, or nearly a sixth of their weekly earnings (based on Wal-Mart's own estimate that full-timers get between 37 and 38 hours a week). It's easy to see why the purchase would be a hardship.
Nationwide, the retailer has an ongoing fund for struggling workers too. From Cleveland.com:
"The Associates in Critical Need Trust is funded by Walmart employee contributions that can be given through payroll deduction... employees can receive grants up to $1,500 to address hardships they may encounter, including homelessness, serious medical illnesses and major repairs to primary vehicles. Since 2001, grants totaling $80 million have been made."
At the same time, Walmart is focusing positive attention on the exact same issues that employees are complaining and striking about: benefits, career mobility, full-time status. Their new commercial campaign, featuring the tagline "Opportunity: That's the real Walmart" features a bunch of smiling associates and managers who, it isn't revealed until the end of the clip, all work at Walmart. (The only reason the element of surprise works is because of the negative reputation they already have). The retailer is also promoting people Publisher's-Clearing-House-style, making sure there's always a camera rolling.
Will their efforts make us forget images like the one above? Who will win the war of good publicity vs. bad publicity?