Grace Ross: Windy’s Story
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
For many of us growing up, it is a dream for us to work in the business that our Dad, that we looked up to and loved, worked in. Windy had the opportunity to do just that.
She went to work for one of the largest businesses in the world – in her local store. And he still worked there in fact. He had been there over 20 years.
Windy° was not there the day that he had a stroke – a stroke on the floor of the local Wal-Mart store where he and she worked. Folks can talk about wages and bad wages and needing to raise wages, but wages are only part of the problem.
The store manager when her dad had his stroke didn’t call an ambulance, didn’t call for emergency personnel; he didn’t put out an announcement over the PA asking if there was a doctor in the store. No, he made one call. He called Windy – not emergency personnel for the person possibly dying in front of him, his own employee for some two decades.
Windy had no car, no transportation that day since she wasn’t headed to work – no easy way to get there. It took her 45 minutes. At the end of the 45 minutes when she did get there, she got transportation for him to a hospital.
We all know that the damage from a stroke can destroy various parts of the brain if not kill somebody pretty fast. What makes the difference can be minutes and certainly an hour or more as to whether somebody regains pretty much all function these days with existing medication or whether they are permanently disabled.
Her Dad never came home after that day. He was never able to. He lived out the next three limited years of his life in a nursing home – unable to see, not really able to talk. He was permanently damaged by what is a level of intentional neglect that’s almost incomprehensible today.
Windy has been fighting to change Wal-Mart every since. She went out on strike with a number of Wal-Mart workers who struck across the country. She was punished by having her job taken away which is illegal by federal law. It is illegal because when a worker and their coworkers have no tools left to fight for anything approaching humanity on their job, the ability to strike is often the last hope for any kind of decency or change.
Was what happened to her Dad an anomaly? Not according to Wal-Mart policy.
As Windy says, Wal-Mart may say that it cares, but Wal-Mart doesn’t care. Not about her dad or her nor any of us and here is what she means.
One day at work, she had a man on a cane fall and need help in the store. She was denied access to the PA system to ask for a doctor or any kind of help. The associates are not allowed to call for an ambulance; they’re not allowed to use the PA system to ask if there’s a doctor on the premise. They were not allowed in any shape or form to physically help this man.
That is the store policy. It goes along with numerous other policies.
Wal-Mart led the way in complicated management techniques to deny regular hours to workers supposedly in the name of making the most profits; they use their computerized system to create swing shifts and unpredictable hours to match whenever a store happens to have an increase in customers. They purposefully electronically track the hours of workers so that they deny an associate the one more hour regularly to avoid the worker becoming eligible for limited benefits receivable once you’re considered full time.
Some of us have been beating the drum for almost 15 years now on the fact that Wal-Mart pays its associates so little that we the taxpayers subsidize pretty much all the non-full-time workers. We taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart through public health systems, public nutrition systems like food stamps. Instead of providing basic decent wages and benefits to their workers, the taxpayers have to supplement the meager and insufficient wages exacerbated by irregular and insufficient hours of the vast majority of Wal-Mart workers in our state.
The prices are low because Wal-Mart has figured out a way to make sure that we the public are subsidizing them every step along the way. They can still make as much of a profit margin as they want and they do.
They are an incredibly wealth corporation, and maybe that’s what Wal-Mart cares about.
Basic human decency and “care” to the customers and the workers (like providing access to any kind of assistance if you have a stroke or fall on the premises) is apparently not a duty they recognize to their workers and to the public that provides their income and that subsidizes their corporation.
I had the honor of hearing Windy’s story last week but it was only the most egregious of the stories of the workers speaking outside the Chicopee Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has been firing and sanctioning those who have dared to speak out.
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