Wal-Mart Manager Speaks out About His Store’s Ugly Reality
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President Obama sparked a new round of big business ire this month, directing the Labor Department to reform rules that exclude salaried managers making over $23,660 a year from overtime protections.
That was welcome news for a Wal-Mart assistant manager – granted anonymity due to concerns over retaliation – who told Salon the retail giant exploits managers’ lack of overtime protection by making managers do rank-and-file employees’ work in order to cut costs. (Wal-Mart did not respond to a request for comment last week.) A condensed version of our conversation – on chronic understaffing, firings of strikers, and why he sympathizes with the union-backed non-union workers group OUR Walmart – follows.
The regulatory change that’s been proposed by the president on overtime — how would that change things for you, if that went into law?
That would force Wal-Mart to, one, start to count how much managers are working … The more time I spend at work, the less time I spend with my family … Without compensation for it, it makes no sense to me … My time with my family is worth a lot more.
How many hours a week do you think you’re working now?
Right now, it’s consistently about 48 hours a week. However, when we get toward the holiday season …you’re regularly working 60 hours a week.
How much do you bring home … from doing that?
My yearly salary is $44,000.
What would change in your life if you were covered by overtime protections?
I think I would get more time with my family — and if I didn’t have more time with my family I would definitely have money … to compensate me for time spent away.
Right now, do you think there’s work that Wal-Mart has managers do rather than rank-and-file employees because they don’t have to pay you for overtime?
Absolutely … What the average customer sees in the store is forcing the manager to step out of that manager role, and into that hourly associate role. So you’ll have managers that are cashiering, stocking shelves … We’re trying to take care of our managerial duties too …
[Managers are] not getting proper lunches or getting breaks. There’s no way for Wal-Mart to ensure that we’re getting breaks, because we don’t punch a clock, of course – we don’t track our time.
It’s been suggested by business groups that this kind of regulation would kill jobs … If this kind of regulation went into effect, do you think your store would be hiring more people or fewer people?
You know, I think Wal-Mart’s way is Wal-Mart’s going to hire fewer and fewer people regardless of what decisions are being made …
With the recent Sam’s [Club] restructuring, Wal-Mart, you know, might pull something like that within their actual [management at] Wal-Mart positions …
[Already] there’s a lot of work to be done that’s not being done right now with the amount of people we have.
In management, in the rank-and-file positions, or both?
In both …
As a salaried manager, if I’m [moving] freight all night long, I’m not able to give my associates in the building the attention that they need, or you know, the developmental process … [to] grow within their role within Wal-Mart. You know, it makes the job very hard to do.
How does that affect Wal-Mart customers?
If you have a manager that’s running a cash register, you know that manager is not on the sales floor ensuring that product is on the shelves. You know that manager is not able to respond to customer calls as quickly …