Wal-Mart workers tell Street about hard work, low pay

Mon Oct 1, 2012 6:01pm EDT
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By Martinne Geller and Jessica Wohl

NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) employees who say the world's largest retailer's labor practices are unfair voiced their concerns to Wall Street analysts on Monday, claiming that problems like long lines and empty shelves are systemic.

Five employees, two of whom have worked for the chain for more than 20 years, outlined problems they see, including unsafe conditions and low wages.

A handful of sell-side analysts turned out to hear from Walmart workers nearly a year after a similar meeting was held near Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The meeting, organized by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, brought the employees' complaints to an audience that is typically more concerned with Walmart's bottom line. They tried to convince analysts that issues such as low levels of staffing can lead to poor customer service, and therefore can impact sales and profits.

Jefferies analyst Scott Mushkin said he was not sure this was a big issue for Wall Street. He said his research showed that store execution, on balance, has improved over the last year or so.

One employee, who said she has worked at Walmart for 13 years, including as a salaried manager, said her store threw out 2,000 pounds of leftover Halloween candy this summer after it had been too short-staffed to stock it on time.

Management tried to sell the expired candy in discount bins in the electronics department, and threw it out after it did not sell, she said.

"Wal-Mart has cut employees' hours and cut the labor costs to a point where it actually is harming not the just the workers, but it affects the operations day to day of the store and it also affects the customers," said the employee, Lori Amos, who helps move goods from delivery trucks to storage shelves.   Continued...

Workers walk through a new Wal-Mart store in Chicago, January 24, 2012. The store will open on January 25, and it will be Wal-Mart's largest outlet in Chicago. REUTERS/John Gress