Walmart workers question Thanksgiving pay

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — On Thanksgiving evening, as other American families tuck into turkey and say thanks, Barbara Gertz will be working at the Walmart stock room in Aurora, Colorado.

“I don’t want my kid to know that she didn’t get to celebrate with her parents because I had to work,” said Gertz, who cannot afford to miss a shift. At an hourly wage of $10, she makes between $21,000 and $23000 a year.

Walmart, like many of its rivals, is opening its stores earlier than ever at 6 p.m. for holiday sales on Thanksgiving. Not only will Gertz miss Thanksgiving dinner with her daughter, but she also worries about not getting enough extra pay for working the holiday.

That’s because Walmart calculates “holiday pay” for its workers differently than many of its rivals — Target, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney and Toys R Us — who pay workers time and a half.

Walmart 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.

That would mean that if Gertz worked an eight-hour shift on Thanksgiving day and also an average of eight hours a day in the two weeks prior, she would double her pay — or at $10 an hour, $80 extra.

The problem is that Gertz and other Walmart workers say their hours are cut prior to the holidays, so their average daily wage also goes down.

Last year, Gertz’s hours were cut by five hours a week before the holiday. Her hours were also cut in the weeks after the holiday, which bit into her paychecks further. She said some associates in her store had their hours slashed from 40 per week to 24 in the weeks after.

“The extra pay is not really a benefit, since they cut your hours,” she said. “Your paycheck either equals the same amount or it ends up being less.”

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan confirmed that Walmart holiday pay is structured the way Gertz and other workers explained. However, Walmart didn’t respond specifically to Gertz’s and other workers’ allegations about reduced hours during the holidays.

A number of Walmart workers have echoed Gertz sentiments as they have joined protests in the last year, demanding higher wages, better hours and the right to speak up without retaliation.

Protests began last year on Black Friday, when hundreds of people gathered outside of Walmart stores across the U.S. to protest for better treatment.

Similar protests have continued to pop up throughout the country even in other low-paid jobs, like fast food. Earlier this month, three current and two former Walmart workers were arrested outside of a Los Angeles store while protesting.

At the same time, Walmart is making a push to promote workers. On Monday, the retailer held a series of town hall meetings across the country, where it surprised 350 workers with promotions. The company said it’s on track to promote 160,000 workers this year, including more than 25,000 between November and the end of January.

Walmart is also offering a holiday meal to workers scheduled on Thanksgiving and also 25% off an entire purchase.

But these moves aren’t enough for Gertz, who has participated in a few of the strikes. She and her fellow workers are planning more actions around Black Friday this year. She said her actions will be part of 1,500 protests at Walmart stores across the country.

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8 comments

  • sw

    How come this happens every year like the employee’s don’t know about the pay. It is nothing new. I don’t agree with stores opening on Thanksgiving but if you happen to get a job at one of them you know it’s coming. If you don’t want to work these holidays then get a job elsewhere like Lowes or Home Depot if you don’t have the education. My daughter worked last year at this time and she knew it was coming when she got hired. She needed work so she took it.

    • Dustin Cavanaugh

      You are an idiot. ” If you don’t want to work these holidays then get a job elsewhere like Lowes or Home Depot if you don’t have the education.” number ONE it’s not that simple you stuck up yuppie. Number two, you speak about an education. Where is yours? If you were educated you would know that there are over 280,000 American college graduates who are having to work minimum wage. Take the plank out of your own eye, you hypocrite. Then maybe you can take the plank out of your brothers eye.

  • Eugene Golden

    walmart is cold and calculating. It comes down to if savings a few pennies on an item is worth the way they treat employees. If we don’t buy there we will buy elsewhere where some retailers treat their employees better. I ride past a Walmart on the way to Target

  • sw

    @Eugene. All companies are looking at the bottom line. The problem here being no one is forcing these people to work at Walmart. You know what you are getting into up front. I has not been a secret. As far as Target, if I am not mistaken their employees were threatening to walk out last year as well.

    • Jenny

      No “one” may be forcing them to work there but the situation of this economy may very well be. It’s like saying to the peasant at the edge of the cliff who has outrun the dog pack, “Take your pick: go over the edge or be eaten by the dogs chasing you. But whatever you choose, don’t complain about hitting the rocks on the way down or that the dogs’ breath stinks.” When WalMart may be the only option that comes your way in terms of employment, no, you can’t be choosy when you have to eat or feed your family, BUT there is nothing wrong with wanting to be treated humanely and fairly by your employer. It shouldnt matter where it is you are working. The argument here is that WalMart created the wage rules for their company and then found a way to work around them so they don’t REALLY have to end up paying holiday pay, and it’s simply wrong and underhanded.

  • LE

    Some jobs you DON’T know how your hours or Holiday pay will be. It change every year. Holiday pay is something you get along with your 40 hours, why take the hours that will equal to your holiday pay or more. Then you get less money that week of holiday and they get 25% off on things in the store. There way of paying them for there help is not helping them pay bills.

  • Raquel marquez

    How come no one ever mentions that walmart actually has a bonus incentive at my store we regular hourly associates have gotten a bonus of over $400. The last two quarters and on Dec 5th we are getting a $440 bonus what other company allows hourly associates to bonus every quarter. I have worked retail for over 25 years and no other company pays as good or gives us bonuses, why don’t anyone ever complain about kmart, sears or union stores I’ve worked for all and was never given a bonus and I started out making more at Walmart than these other stores..get all your facts straight..

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