Wal-Mart is Going After the Kids

I recall reading a few days ago about Wal-Mart saving the environment and offering employees better benefits and thinking, "This is too good to be true." I was right. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest employer, constantly faces criticism for low wages, sub-par health insurance coverage and an overall poor treatment of workers. The company took a big step in the right direction by announcing this week a cheaper health insurance plan, with monthly premiums as low as $11. Employees can now enroll for the new plan, which starts in 2006. Currently, less than half of the company's 1.2 million domestic employees cannot afford the current plan (perhaps because of low wages?).

Wal-Mart also announced Tuesday "a set of sweeping, specific environmental goals to reduce energy use in its stores, double its trucks' fuel efficiency, minimize its use of packaging and pressure thousands of companies in its worldwide supply chain to follow its lead," according to a NY Times article. Basically, they're going to improve their environmental standards, too. Good stuff.

But oh, how the momentum stopped. An internal memo was uncovered by Wal-Mart Watch, a group that lives to hate Wal-Mart, and has been broadcast by major media outlets. It reveals a list of ways Wal-Mart intends to reduce healthcare spending. In the memo, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, makes the following recommendations:

  • recruit younger, healthier workers with fewer dependents.
  • discourage unhealthy job applicants by including physical activities for all jobs.
  • reduce 401(k) contributions.
  • decrease cross-subsidization through higher premiums.

The document of recommendations is 27 pages long and ironically commits itself to reducing harm to the company's reputation. That obviously didn't work out.

The bottom line: When Wal-Mart occupies Fircrest, it'll need employees, and it's coming after Sergio.