David Mandl on Tue, 25 Jun 2002 20:55:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Secrets of the world's most profitable retailer


June 25, 2002

Suits Say Wal-Mart Forces Workers to Toil Off the Clock

ANSAS CITY, Mo.  After finishing her 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. shift, Verette
Richardson clocked out and was heading to her car when a Wal-Mart
manager ordered her to turn around and straighten up the store's
apparel department.

Eager not to get on her boss's bad side, she said, she spent the next
hour working unpaid, tidying racks of slacks and blouses and picking
up hangers and clothes that had fallen to the floor. Other times after
clocking out, she was ordered to round up shopping carts in the
parking lot.

Some days, as soon as she walked in a manager told her to rush to a
cash register and start ringing up purchases, without clocking
in. Sometimes, she said, she worked for three hours before clocking

"They wanted us to do a lot of work for no pay," said Ms. Richardson,
who worked from 1995 to 2000 at a Wal-Mart in southeast Kansas
City. "A company that makes billions of dollars doesn't have to do

But she and 40 other current and former Wal-Mart workers interviewed
over the last four months say Wal-Mart has done just that, forcing or
pressuring employees to work hours that were not recorded or
paid. Federal and state laws bar employers from making hourly
employees work unpaid hours. Wal-Mart's policies forbid such work. But
many current and former workers and managers said an intense focus on
cost cutting had created an unofficial policy that encouraged managers
to request or require off-the-clock work and avoid paying overtime.

Accusations like these are at the heart of a wide-ranging legal battle
between Wal-Mart and employees or former employees in 28 states. In
class-action and individual lawsuits, workers assert that these
practices have helped Wal-Mart undersell the competition, push up
profits and become the world's largest retailer.

In the process, these lawsuits contend, the company has cheated
Wal-Mart employees and workers at its warehouse-store division, Sam's
Club, out of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.


"We worked off the clock pretty much every shift," said Shannon
Snyder, who worked two years ago stocking the health and beauty aids
department at a Wal-Mart in Paso Robles, Calif. "The manager said if
our jobs were not finished, we had to clock out and finish our jobs so
no overtime would show up."

- Some employees said they frequently took it upon themselves to clock
out after their regular shift and then return to work, with their
managers' knowledge and approval. They said they feared that if they
did not finish their daily tasks before going home, they would be
written up or fired.

"You have to accomplish your job for that day," said Charlotte
Johnson, who worked at Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs in Georgia, Oklahoma
and California for a decade before retiring this year. "If you don't
finish it, you're more or less in hot water with your manager."


Dave Mandl

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