THE BLOG
01/03/2007 02:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Wal-Mart Jumps the Shark

It's official. Management at Wal-Mart has had a complete psychotic break with reality. Today's Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart "using a new computerized scheduling system, will start moving many of its 1.3 million workers from predictable shifts to a system based on the number of customers in stores at any given time. The move promises greater productivity and customer satisfaction for the huge retailer but could be a major headache for employees." A "major headache." Ya think?

Wal-Mart's management, in an astonishing display of hubris, announces this plan ONE DAY before a new Congress, controlled by Democrats, is sworn in. Many of these Democrats have had Wal-Mart in their crosshairs for years. This hamfisted move would be the PR equivalent of announcing "wage caps" on long-term employees the same month Wake-Up Wal-Mart began a nationwide anti-Wal-Mart bus tour. Oh wait...they did that last August.

Wal-Mart already has had trouble with its new scheduling experiments. Last year 200 employees walked out of a store in Hialeah, FL in protest of a new scheduling system. That's in Florida, reputedly a red state. What will they do in Michigan or California?

As I made clear in my last HuffPo piece, I believe Wal-Mart, driven by the head of the stores Eduardo Castro-Wright, is floundering in its attempts to increase earnings and has decided shifting employees from full-time to part-time is one way to do it. From the same WSJ article:

"(Employees) they may be asked to be "on call" to meet customer surges, or sent home because of a lull, resulting in less pay. The new systems also alert managers when a worker is approaching full-time status or overtime, which would require higher wages and benefits, so they can scale back that person's schedule.

That means workers may not know when or if they will need a babysitter or whether they will work enough hours to pay that month's bills. Rather than work three eight-hour days, someone might now be plugged into six four-hour days, mornings one week and evenings the next."

This may have worked for Mr. Castro-Wright in Mexico when he ran Wal-Mex, but it won't fly here. In my home state of Georgia, a right to work state, Wal-Mart employees email me talking union, motivated by this sort of employee abuse. Wal-Mart is the Tin Man, a logistics machine that can't find its heart.

I made a film extolling Wal-Mart. Robert Greenwald made a film criticizing them. It looks like he was probably right.