Running a multinational corporation is tough. It takes time to close up local businesses through price-cutting measures the little guys can’t compete with before profit margins begin to escalate. You have to find the right locations where city councils are falling over each other to give you huge tax breaks. Where people are starved for jobs, willing to work part-time hours for minimum wage without health care benefits but where they have easy access to state agencies that subsidize this basic need. And you must have rigid policies that can’t be deviated from, even when circumstances dictate you should. It just makes it easier for upper administration types who have a hard time seeing their labor force as anything other than a means to an end.
It happened around 2:30 a.m. outside the Walmart store in the Livingston County town of Hartland Township, Michigan.
[Kristopher] Oswald, who worked stocking pet food on the overnight shift at Walmart, was spending his lunch break in his car when he heard a woman screaming and a man hanging onto the hood of her car.
At first, Oswald wondered if it was just people horsing around recklessly, but when he walked over to see if the woman was really in danger, he says the man began to attack him, punching him in the head while yelling “I’m going to kill you”.
Oswald tells [WXYZ] Action News that he was able to get on top of the man and just when he thought he had him under control, two other men jumped Oswald from behind.
Livingston County Sheriff deputies were quick to arrive, but Oswald says he wasn’t expecting what Walmart did next.
The company fired Oswald and the reason given on his termination papers states: “after a violation of company policy on his lunch break, it was determined to end his temporary assignment”.
Oswald only began working for Walmart about seven weeks ago and would not have been considered a permanent hire until a 180-day probation period ended.
Oswald says Walmart has policies against workplace violence to prevent employees from assaulting co-workers or tackling a shoplifter, but that it appears that nothing allows for them to assist in situations of imminent danger and self-defense. SOURCE
But here’s the level of management thinking in Wal-Mart’s preposterous response for firing Oswald according to an AP story
Wal-Mart spokewoman Ashlie Hardie said “that while the company understood Oswald’s intentions, his actions violated company policy.
“We had to make a tough decision,” she said. “ …one that we don’t take lightly, and he’s no longer with the company,” SOURCE
How tough can it be Ashlie to let someone go when there are thousands like him waiting in the wings to get some kind of income source in this tough economy, especially in Michigan where the unemployment rate (9.0) is higher than the national average (7.3)?
We can all appreciate large companies like Wal-Mart putting policies in place to cover most contingencies to protect their customers, their employees and of course management too. But they need to be applied practically and each case needs to be reviewed by someone who can logically conclude that in Oswald’s case at least, such rigid enforcement of a dubious policy is unwarranted.
Fortunately this rational thought clicked with someone in upper management. It appears the higher beings at Wal-Mart have seen the light, not to mention the public outrage that was generated when this story went virile and after reviewing the security films conceded that perhaps Mr. Oswald was not the company deviant their policy suggested.
It appears too that Ms. Hardie has been replaced as company spokesperson for this issue with spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan. Perhaps Ms. Hardie was also cited for some company policy that addressed allowing irrational reactions to get too much media exposure. I hope she still has her job though
“The protocol is when you do see something, you alert store management and call the police. That’s in place for the safety of our associates so they don’t feel compelled to get into a situation that may be dangerous,” Buchanan said.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc said media coverage prompted its corporate office to review the parking lot security footage and police report. Oswald, a temporary employee who had worked nights stocking shelves, was contacted on Friday with an offer to return to his job.
“While Mr. Oswald did violate one of our policies at the time, we now have found his intentions were good,” Buchanan said. SOURCE
We understand however that Wal-Mart has yet to hear back from Mr. Oswald on his reinstatement nor has the Reuter news source who published this account been able to make contact with the former, now newly rehired Wal-Mart pet food stocker.
I did find it odd however that in both the original ABC news station affiliate account and this newer Reuter News account that neither seemed to have bothered to cover information regarding the young woman Oswald “saved” or the men who accosted him. Was she in real danger? Was this a lovers spat gone too far? Did she work for Wal-Mart and was too embarrassed to have her story exposed? Were the men charged and held? This appears to be yet another example of how Investigative journalism is seriously lacking in this country.
It’s good that Wal-Mart was forced to see the error of their ways and make good on giving Mr. Oswald his job back. And though this will likely now sweep this incident out of the public’s eye, it does expose yet another example of how Wal-Mart treats its minions here and around the globe. They can now move on with their mammoth operations which includes having many of their clothing products made by sweatshops workers in Indonesia. A cheap foreign labor market where workers earn about a dollar a day and sometimes work 14 hours straight with out lunch or restroom breaks. A few of these sweat shops have been in the news over the last year.
Last April the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Indonesia, a commercial building that housed some 5000 garment factory workers, collapsed and killed 1129 of them while injuring over 2500 others. Walmart, among other American and International businesses utilized this place and its laborers to manufacture apparel brands for them. In November of 2012 a Bangladesh Wal-Mart sweatshop factory fire killed 112 employees “after becoming trapped inside the building with no fire exits.”
How ironic that Wal-Mart claims to have a policy in place to ensure certain people aren’t hurt or to avoid violence to justify firing Kristopher Oswald but apparently lack the same rigid approach in dealing with people who make their products cheap enough so that they can call themselves the world’s largest retailer.
Those happy smiling faces of “real Wal-Mart employees” we are being inundated with on TV ads give consumers the false impression that all is well in Wallyland and how wonderful it is that they create so many jobs. But pull back the thin veil on this inspiring imagery and you’ll find that such people are likely the exception rather than the rule. So unhappy are the blue-vested Wal-mart warriors with working conditions that include intimidation and inadequate part-time hours that a nationwide strike is planned for this years big holiday event we’ve come to call “Black Friday”.
In these economic hard times it is hard for most consumers not to want to shop at places where they feel they can get more bang for their buck. Wal-mart fills that need. But if more shoppers were aware of the pain that Wal-mart inflicts on its labor force to keep prices low and their profit margins high, might they not go that extra mile and spend a few pennies more at stores where workers like themselves get a better deal from their employers. Why wouldn’t the American workforce who has taken the brunt of these economic hard times step up to the plate and accommodate some of their brothers and sisters who eek out a living by working at a place whose business model includes pricing policies that drive most other local businesses out of the market and in effect monopolizes working conditions for many in most communities across this country?
Big companies like Wal-Mart can act with impunity because of the massive amount of wealth they control. In so doing they all too often do so it enhance that wealth and greater control to the detriment of those people who make it possible for them to succeed.