business news in context, analysis with attitude

"Twas the month before Christmas, and all through the media…

• The Huffington Post reports that while Walmart was hit with a $7,000 fine (yes…that's seven thousand dollars) five years ago when a New York employee, Jdimytai Damour, was crushed and killed by rampaging Black Friday shoppers - the fine was assessed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - the check to OSHA remains unwritten and Walmart continues to contest it.

The reason, according to HuffPo:

"If the fine is upheld, Walmart would essentially be deemed negligent in Damour’s death, as far as OSHA is concerned. That could pressure the company — and other retailers, in theory — to invest in greater safeguards against shopping crowds in order to shield itself from liability in similar cases, meaning more staff, more planning and perhaps even more infrastructure. In other words, if it’s ultimately deemed that Walmart should have foreseen Damour’s death in 2008, then it will be much easier for the government to say Walmart should have foreseen another tragedy like it."

Yahoo! News reports that while many retailers opening on Thanksgiving will pay their employees time-and-a-half for working on the holiday, Walmart calculates its "holiday pay" differently.

The good news, according to the piece, is that "Wal-Mart gives employees a regular hourly wage plus additional pay for working the Thanksgiving holiday. The additional pay is equal to the average daily wage in the two weeks leading up to the holiday."

But the bad news, some employees say, is that Walmart goes out of its way to reduce hours for employees during those two weeks, thus lessening its exposure for holiday pay increases.

Walmart confirms to Yahoo! News that this is how it structures its holiday pay scales, but does not respond to accusations that it reduces hours during the previous two weeks. reports that "the group behind the past year’s Wal-Mart strikes pledged Thursday to back an unprecedented 1,500 protests for 'Black Friday' next week, but stopped short of predicting an increase in the number of Wal-Mart employees on strike compared to last year … According to OUR Walmart, the 1,500 Black Friday protests will include major demonstrations in over a dozen cities including Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C. The campaign has said that last year’s Black Friday actions included tens of thousands of supporters and more than 400 striking Wal-Mart employees."

All Things D reports that Walmart has lowered its minimum purchase for free shipping from its website during the holiday season to $35.

That move matches Amazon's minimum price for free shipping. Ironically, it was just a month ago that Amazon raised its free-shipping minimum from $25 to $35.
KC's View:
When I read the stories about the $7,000 fine not being paid, and about the way Walmart seems to be handling Thanksgiving pay, I return to something I've believed for a long time - that the company ought to hire someone who is required to not drink the Kool-Aid, who is required to sit in meetings and say to senior executives, "Do you know how this is going to look to the outside/real world?"

Some would say that Walmart can do these things because, well, it can. But I would argue that Walmart should not do these things because it shouldn't.