In the midst of a nationwide discussion over whether we should raise the minimum wage, a Walmart in Canton, OH seems to be answering the question. The store is holding a Thanksgiving food drive to help the needy. The needy, in this case, are people who work for the store.
A photo of the collection bins (at right) has gone viral after being passed around by the group Our Walmart, which has been working with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union to unionize Walmart employees.
A spokesperson for the store, Kory Lundberg, explained that if you’re thinking maybe the company needs to pay workers enough so they don’t struggle to put food on the table for Thanksgiving, you’ve got it all wrong. This is something that has been going on for years, she says.
“Quite frankly, a lot of people in that store are frustrated and offended that this is reported in a way besides other folks rallying around each other,” Lundberg told ABC News, because clearly Lundberg/Walmart don’t get it. Twelve people benefited from this food drive last year.
“They set the tub up for associates and managers to donate items for associates for things beyond their control,” Lundberg added. “This isn’t every day run of the mill stuff — maybe a spouse has lost a job or lost a loved one, or maybe a natural disaster has hit.” She added that the company has a nonprofit organization, The Associates in Critical Need Trust, for staffers who have fallen on hard times. Judging by the fact that there needs to be a food drive for people working at the largest retailer in the world, it sounds as though if you work for Walmart as an associate, you’ve hit hard times.
This is a story that, given the season, tugs at the heartstrings, makes people angry, frustrated, and sad all at once. Or, if you believe Lundberg, it’s somehow uplifting that working people can’t support themselves, but can rest assured that the kindness of strangers and fellow low-wage workers will allow them to enjoy the simple pleasures of one of our most beloved holidays.
Henry Blodget says on Business Insider that while corporations and the stock market are doing well, average Americans (Walmart’s core customers) are struggling.
“When people are broke, they can’t buy things. When people can’t buy things, companies can’t grow. And when companies can’t grow, they cut costs (fire more people). And, in so doing, they make more people broke,” he says.
“Great companies do not simply ‘maximize profits,’ as so many of America’s companies are now doing,” he continues. “Rather, great companies create value for all three of their major constituencies: customers, shareholders, and employees.” (Emphasis his.) Daniel Gross, writing for The Daily Beast, made a similar argument back in August.
“The biggest problem in the economy is the refusal of companies, now in the fifth year of this expansion, to boost wages broadly,” he wrote. “Walmart is effectively limiting the ability of a large chunk of the American workforce to consume. By setting a low benchmark, it encourages other employers to do the same.”
For many people, the idea that anyone would not have a turkey and pie for the holidays is grim, which is a black eye for Walmart’s brand during this happiest time of year. But there could be repercussions in the long run as well that spread to other stakeholders for the company. Walmart may be spinning this one issue today, but they may be called to account for larger issues about related to wages in the future. So the PR team should be ready. The rose-colored glasses that this spokesperson is asking us to wear won’t be a sufficient response.