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Wal-Mart Lockin
January 17, 2004 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Wal-Mart Locks Its Workers In. And not without serious consequences. One worker had a heart attack, another had an asthma attack and an assistant manager wouldn't let him out immediately, another had his ankle smashed by heavy machinery and had no way of getting to a hospital. It's not the first time the world's largest private employer has stiffed its 1.2 million workers out of millions of dollars. What price unfettered industrialization?
posted by ed (83 comments total)

 
Holy shit.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 10:39 PM on January 17, 2004


Anyone stupid enough not to use a fire exit when they have a crushed ankle deserves to work at WalMart.
posted by mischief at 10:41 PM on January 17, 2004


Triangle. Shirtwaist. Fire.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:42 PM on January 17, 2004


So we now have the trifecta: this, illegal immigrants, and underage violations. Here in Dallas we call this "the Mavs MoneyBall!"
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:45 PM on January 17, 2004


This is common policy with a lot of retail stores, not just Wal-Mart. (off hand, since I have worked there at one time or another, I can say that Best Buy, K-Mart, and the local Electronics retailer I used to work for all do this)

As stated in the article, this is to to prevent employee theft, which is rampant in retail.

The reason it is drummed in to people's heads not use the fire exits is that it normally requires a manager who is at home to come to work to turn off the alarm, and the police will show up and and charge the store for a false alarm due to Bob or Mary wanting to go outside and have a smoke. And if it is a medical emergency, and you are too dumb to use the fire exit, well...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:56 PM on January 17, 2004


This is why caps on punitive damages are a bad idea.
posted by bshort at 10:56 PM on January 17, 2004


It's unbelieveably stupid for Wal-Mart, the most sued company in North America, not to have a written "lock-in" policy written in 50 languages that must be distributed to every employee and posted conspicuously.

What are they paying all those lawyers for?
posted by trharlan at 11:00 PM on January 17, 2004


It's unbelievably stupid of them not to give a key to one person on every shift.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 11:04 PM on January 17, 2004


let some generous all-american corporation show the least bit of entrepreneurial innovation, let them strive tirelessly to improve efficiency and contribute to the economic rally, and you buncha whining pansies start the piss and moan routine.

</preemptive>
posted by quonsar at 11:05 PM on January 17, 2004


Yeah, he should've used the fire exit even though he probably was warned that doing so without an actual fire will result in punishment. I think that phrasing the warning in that manner was thoughtless, not malicious. If he'd done that then the store would get a fine (I'm not sure whether the employee would or not). I would not be surprised if there were repercussions for doing this from the local management however especially if an employees heart attack ended up being heart burn or something. That's what your local news is for though. They'd love to do a story on a poorly paid worker being fined or fired by his employer for leaving the building using the only available means during an apparent emergency.

It's criminal that somebody isn't readily available with the key though. If the stores going to be stupid enough to do a lock in then there should be a very way of getting the key. Stick it in an alarmed box so all Hell breaks loose if it's opened to prevent emergency smoke breaks or something but there needs to be some clear and unambiguous way out in an emergency.
posted by substrate at 11:24 PM on January 17, 2004


Why can I not allow myself to be surprised?
posted by Wizzle at 11:43 PM on January 17, 2004


It'll be swell when we all work for Wal Mart. It will be like the Great American Lock-in.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:15 AM on January 18, 2004


And, oh yeah, why are we complaining here? These people should go to their union stewards, not the NYT. It's not like this happened in some place where workers have no voice.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:17 AM on January 18, 2004


I don't get this. Where are the paid mercenaries who round up these poor people and force them to apply for these evil wicked jobs?

Yeah it sucks they are locked in. They wouldn't be if people didn't steal so much shit from them. If you don't like being locked in, try to get on the day crew.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:56 AM on January 18, 2004


what union stewards? Walmart has no unions.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:04 AM on January 18, 2004


well if those ungrateful bastages would shape up maybe they'd get a union. where i come from, you had to earn your union. you didn't expect The Company [genuflects] to just give you one. pretty soon wal-mart is gonna wise up and stop hiring losers. you want fries with that, losers?
posted by quonsar at 1:14 AM on January 18, 2004


Walmart has no unions.

Yeah, yeah, why be so negative? Why do you hate low prices?

Or maybe I suck at sarcasm.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:42 AM on January 18, 2004


Even some retail industry experts questioned the policy. "It's clearly cause for concern," said Burt Flickinger, who runs a retail consulting concern. "Locking in workers, that's more of a 19th-century practice than a 20th-century one."

er, isn't it the 21st century?
posted by christian at 1:53 AM on January 18, 2004


er, isn't it the 21st century?

Don't you love America? It's whatever century we say it is. Now shut up and go shopping.
posted by PrinceValium at 1:56 AM on January 18, 2004


Why do you hate low prices?

Ha! I love that...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:31 AM on January 18, 2004


RE: the fire door. Did you guys even bother to read the article before defending Walmart and insulting these employees?
Mr. Rodriguez acknowledged that the seemingly obvious thing to have done after breaking his ankle was to leave by the fire door, but he and two dozen other Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers said they had repeatedly been warned never to do that unless there was a fire. Leaving for any other reason, they said, could jeopardize the jobs of the offending employee and the night supervisor.
posted by skallas at 3:34 AM on January 18, 2004


As stated in the article, this is to to prevent employee theft, which is rampant in retail.

Surely there are other ways to prevent theft than a system like this. They don't rely on lock downs to prevent theft by daystaff. Hell, those pesky customers are walking in and out of the store with things stuffed down their shirts all the time!

I worked in a department store, on night shift, for about five years. The fact is, walking out the door in the middle of the shift is a pretty stupid way to steal stuff, especially if there is a manager on duty. That's all they need - someone in charge, someone with a key. If they think they can't even trust one person on the night shift to have a key, then they've got no right to use pathetic euphemisms like "associates" to describe the people who make them their money. I guess they workers can just be thankfull the fire doors aren't locked too.

Unionize. 'nuff said.
posted by Jimbob at 3:48 AM on January 18, 2004


I don't get this. Where are the paid mercenaries who round up these poor people and force them to apply for these evil wicked jobs?
The paid mercs are the private placement agents paid by the government to find jobs for the unemployed. Here in Australia, failure to accept an offered job will result in loss of benefits. Failure to apply for 10 jobs a week will result in loss of benefits. Skills in a specialised area will typically mean you lose your benefits or you apply for menial jobs. No skills mean that you are forced to work at telemarking call centres or you lose your benefits.

Unemployment benefits are so damn minimal that if anyone *wants* to be on them, they should be allowed to. I spend in a year more on video games and DVDs than a person would receive in unemployment benefits.
posted by krisjohn at 4:04 AM on January 18, 2004


they ought to be glad they have a job fer christ's sake....wha wha wha!
shut up already.
go back to ur own country if you don't like it heer.
posted by billybobtoo at 5:09 AM on January 18, 2004


As stated in the article, this is to to prevent employee theft, which is rampant in retail.

I can't believe that Wal-Mart, endlessly written up and lauded for the efficiency of its supply chain management, can't figure out how to control that stock in the last few hundred feet, without an employee lock-in. At some point, the $10 an hour they would pay a night manager has to be—HAS TO BE—cheaper than what they would lose in stolen goods. As long as the manager is on the floor, not up in the office running numbers. And as long as employee theft is the real reason they do lock-ins.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:16 AM on January 18, 2004


I used to work at a Safeways where the manager with the key on the evening shift, elisted some of the employees to help him steal crates of whisky.

Just chip everybody at birth, all ready.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:29 AM on January 18, 2004


Oh yeah, the non-reg link to the NYT article: Workers Assail Night Lock-Ins by Wal-Mart.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:32 AM on January 18, 2004


Officials at Kmart, Sears, Toys "R" Us, Home Depot and Costco, said they did not lock in workers.

BS. I worked nights at dozens of K-Marts for a cleaning company for 6 years. They ALL locked their doors at night. Same with Target. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, but Wal-Mart is turning into the next MS. People will rag on them, or blame the, for anything and everything without checking the facts.

And ragging on the current popular 'bad-guys' does not make you look smart or cool. It makes you look like a lemming...
posted by dirt at 5:37 AM on January 18, 2004


<snarky remark>

Hey! Maybe if Wal-Mart gave their workers a living wage and benefits (currently they provide coverage to their full-time employees of four years or more who can fork out the 35% of salary price tag), their workers wouldn't have to steal!

</snarky remark>
posted by jennak at 5:43 AM on January 18, 2004


Also, it's hard to believe that Wal-Mart, with its (infamous) top-down-micro-management management style, doesn't know what goes on in its stores when it comes to workers' rights.
posted by jennak at 5:48 AM on January 18, 2004


Presumably these workers have breaks during their night shifts as required by law, right? It was my understanding that employers are not allowed to tell employees what they can do on breaks, and are especially not allowed to tell them that they can't leave the workplace. How is this legal?
posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:54 AM on January 18, 2004


Didn't you know, IshmaelGraves? Wal-Mart and the Amish are both exempt from following federal or state law.
posted by jennak at 5:58 AM on January 18, 2004


There was a fire in a chicken processing plant here awhile back and people died because the doors were padlocked.

The owner went to prison.
posted by konolia at 6:30 AM on January 18, 2004


It must be nice to be like S@L, sitting in front how his nice over-priced PC with broadband and attacking the working class.

There are many unwritten rules when working a crap job and knowing that finding another job may well be impossible or take months. First off, you don't question authority and you learn to 'deal with the pain' before doing anything as rash as opening the firedoor or attempting to get healthcare.

Secondly, your night manager is your boss and you have a bond with him. If the firedoor will cost him his job then you've hurt the guy who can fire you at-will not to mention if you don't get fired you come off as being disloyal - which is a serious charge when working paycheck to paycheck.

I could go on, but its wasted on those who already believe the pro-corp BS the spew on these boards.

>Wal-Mart is turning into the next MS. People will rag on them, or blame the, for anything and everything without checking the facts.

Umm, have you checked the facts with MS, specically the finding of fact? Yes, Walmart is the current target and if it embodies the shared problems with all these retailers then all the better, because if legislation borne from Walmart's misconduct emerged (or a pro-union element moves into walmart) then everyone has something to gain.
posted by skallas at 6:31 AM on January 18, 2004


Yes, skallas, I read that part of the article, and immediately thereafter, posted my comment. The guy missed a perfect opportunity for a lawsuit with beaucoup punitive damages.

... and that is so un-American!
posted by mischief at 6:56 AM on January 18, 2004


I guess Mo Nickels got it right , from an economic point of view it's _probably_ cheaper to hire a couple guardians and give them incentive of monetary $$ benefits if they catch some thief that is _later_ found to be a thieft thanks to security cameras (otherwise the incentive to accuse anybody of being a thieft would be far too attractive for the guardian).

Some MBA-cause-I-cheated at Walmart probably figured that it would be cheap to lock all the employees and not to hire guardians, using the argument (suggested by Blue Stone) that one can't trust the guardians/managers as well (If anybody here worked/works at Walmart I would like to know how to they handle the lock-ins when they unload the arriving goods from trucks and reload the shelves).

He/She evidently tought that the savings would outweight the risk of being slapped with a bad lawsuit if anybody dies/is injuried during work and he can't go to hospital , or if a fire kills the workers. That doesn't seem plausible to me unless of course the workers have accepted being treated like slaves by letting their representatives (read - the politician you voted) enact laws that only favor corporations and companies. You get what you vote for.

On a tangent : alleged (and confirmed by facts) Walmart anti-union behavior is just the expression of how much big companies FEAR unions.

Even if it is entirely possible that some union is corrupt and in bed with the company itself or just adding a layer of useless costs to production , it seems to me that if management and ownership fail miserably at meeting reasonable workers demands then they deserves facing the impact only unions and strikes have over production and profits.

In other words, the failure of management/ownership _must_ backfire in the form of increased costs, not reduced profits.
posted by elpapacito at 6:59 AM on January 18, 2004


Define 'reasonable'.
posted by mischief at 7:16 AM on January 18, 2004


I imagine laws concerning breaks vary from state. My employer, the US Postal service, forbids workers from going outside during short breaks, when we are still on the clock. We aren't locked in; we're warned that we might be disciplined. During our lunch breaks we are off the clock and we are allowed to go where we will. To compel our attendance by force or threat would put the managers at risk of a charge of kidnapping.

I'm always struck when I read these stories about Walmart how the front office blames over-zealous or poorly trained managers for the problem but apparently never thinks to implement clear, written policies to avoid the problem.
posted by faceonmars at 7:20 AM on January 18, 2004


I feel a sudden urge to go to Wal Mart and use the fire exits.
And if I can get 10 friends to come along...
posted by Slagman at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2004


This sort of thing will only become more pervasive so long as the predominant attitude in this country is to treat its adults like children—and for adults to accept such treatment. In a very real sense, this is YOUR fault, for relinquishing your responsibilities to authority and accepting the notion that you are an incompetent, immature ward reliant upon both state and employer to do your thinking for you. It won't get better until people reject authoritarianism in society and step up to claim the hard-won freedom that has been handed down to them.

Looking around, I'm not holding my breath.
posted by rushmc at 8:03 AM on January 18, 2004


but he and two dozen other Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers said they had repeatedly been warned never to do that unless there was a fire. Leaving for any other reason, they said, could jeopardize the jobs of the offending employee and the night supervisor.

If they could get those two-dozen to testify to that in court, sounds like they'd have enough for a heavy duty lawsuit or maybe even charges of reckless endangerment. And I'd be cheering 'em on.

I worked in retail for 7 years, often times on night shifts, and there was always a keyholder around, even if it was just a nightwatchman. This policy is just sheer stupidity. Add it to the list of things about Wal-Mart that offend me.
posted by jonmc at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2004


this is to to prevent employee theft, which is rampant in retail.

Yeah, and that's not at all because retail work is low-wage, low-skill, high-turnover... oh, and has a management culture that treats its workforce like a cross between thieves and indentured servants, is it?
posted by riviera at 8:33 AM on January 18, 2004


Travelling back in time, to 1975: once a week they used to lock the cleaning crew
into the Elder-Beerman department store (the only building in Richmond, Indiana with an escalator) and lock the doors. No fire doors, either.

They had a "security system" which involved elderly ladies periodically listening in on the ceiling microphones. We were warned not to cuss, because they would report us.

So, see, young'uns, what do you have to complain about? Of course, the pie was so much better back then.
posted by kozad at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2004


mischief: reasonable ? Check www.m-w.com for "reasonable" and then for "reason".
posted by elpapacito at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2004


kozad: the complain is that young' are less stupid then in 1975 and don't like being locked in a building. It's called being smarter then your parents I think ? Oh and the pie ..that's cause your granma made it maybe , sooner or later it will be made in china as well.
posted by elpapacito at 9:17 AM on January 18, 2004


S@L: "off hand, since I have worked there at one time or another, I can say that Best Buy, K-Mart, and the local Electronics retailer I used to work for all do this"

skallas:"It must be nice to be like S@L, sitting in front how his nice over-priced PC with broadband and attacking the working class."

I know Steve's a nice big target, but you should at least read his posts on the topic if your going to use him as a example of mean, rich, snobby Repubs. And you forgot to add "while cackling madly" to your image.
posted by superchris at 9:39 AM on January 18, 2004


Oh and the pie ..that's cause your granma made it maybe , sooner or later it will be made in china as well.

I didn't find any Chinese pie exporters on a quick search, but I did find this, a "Symphony of Foods," from Uni-President in Taiwan http://www.uni-president.com/amain2.htm :

"An F major symphony,
Alive and vibrant,
Showcasing love and care.
Effusing harmony and fluency
It presents the most primitive tone and voice.
Translucent and up-bright melody, lively and cheerful as the sound of spring
Sometimes growling like ocean current gently hitting on the sandy shore
Sometimes beating on the rhythm of the deep blue.
Sometimes like birds humming spritely in the woods,
It is the keynote of our planet
It is green.
It is the motif of the nature."

Yes, I can see how this was the same spirit behind their bottled water and instant ramen-like noodles.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:58 AM on January 18, 2004


BusinessWeek: "The response was a mini version of what occurred in Las Vegas four years later. Three labor experts swooped in from Arkansas to show anti-union videos at mandatory employee meetings, says Lehman, and scoured personnel files for dirt to use against union supporters. The labor experts grilled him and other Hillview managers about potential troublemakers, and the store trained surveillance cameras on suspect workers, he says. Now, as a union organizer, he recently noticed that a store in Scottsburg, Ind., sprouted a multitude of cameras after he began talking to workers there in July. Wal-Mart declined comment on Lehman, although a spokesman says that the 15 cameras installed in Scottsburg have 'nothing to do with union activity.'"
posted by ed at 10:02 AM on January 18, 2004


Whoops, sorry about just casually throwing the link in there and not linking properly. Am tired, as I just got off work about four hours ago from graveyard shift at 7-11, which I work seven days a week. You sure can walk out the door to have a cigarette, but as for any other aspect of the job, don't even ask ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:04 AM on January 18, 2004


Ya know, if I were a fire marshall, I'd be going over every Wal-Mart in my jurisdiction with a fine tooth comb looking for every violation I could find. And I'd have a printout of this article in my pocket.
posted by ilsa at 10:22 AM on January 18, 2004


Ya know, if I were a fire marshall, I'd be going over every Wal-Mart in my jurisdiction with a fine tooth comb looking for every violation I could find.

And the city council would have your job in minutes. How dare you shut down the biggest employer in town, yadda yadda yadda. We're stuck with the economy we've created.
posted by PrinceValium at 10:46 AM on January 18, 2004


They don't rely on lock downs to prevent theft by daystaff.

And there is normally 'Loss Prevention' Staff on during the day, that does not work the night. Aside from that, it is a little hard to lock-down when you want people to be able to come in to the store, namely customers. Hey, maybe they should pay Loss Prevention to work, nights... I duno... all I am saying is that I've worked in a lot of these places, and I know what goes on... and what goes on is a lot of employee theft. Locking people in at night is a very simple, and cost effective way to stop people from stealing. (And they really are not 'locked in', it is just that the doors that are exits have alarms on them. They can leave in the case of an emergency.) For those of you who have not had the pleasure of working the night crew at one of these places, let me inform you that a great number of the people who work these types of jobs are shady characters, and the retailers have reason to be zealous with 'Loss Prevention'.

Yeah, and that's not at all because retail work is low-wage, low-skill, high-turnover... oh, and has a management culture that treats its workforce like a cross between thieves and indentured servants, is it?

So, in other words: theft is justifiable due to their low wages, and shitty bosses?


It must be nice to be like S@L, sitting in front how his nice over-priced PC with broadband and attacking the working class.
  1. I have an over-priced Mac.
  2. I am sorry to say that I have worked more than my fair share of shitty jobs and physical labor, and that since you really know nothing about me, you would be better off keeping your assumptions to yourself. I've been busting my hump since I was 14 for everything I have, including my overpriced Mac. So please, spare me your bullshit, I am hardly a GOP Fatcat.
    (For the record I have worked every form of retail imaginable from bagboy to commission salesman, been a physical day labor, worked in a factory [non-union] and was an enlisted member of the Military, backbreaking work if there is any)
  3. It is mostly working these crappy jobs that I have come to most of my political philosophy.
  4. superchris: Thank You
The thing that I find amusing about all of this, is that anyone who has ever worked retail knows that is standard practice (right or wrong) for night crews. Nothing really shocking going on... a 'non-story' if you will...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:17 AM on January 18, 2004


While I agree it's is the standard (logical) practice to lock the doors at night, in my experience there is always someone there with a key. I think that is the difference. Yes, you have employees that steal, and you always will, that's retail. But you need someone there to say, "you know what, I see that your arm is severed and you're about to die, there's a low chance that you did this to steal a CD, why don't you go to the hospital."

If you can't trust one person on a night shift as a shift manager to have a key then I'd have to question your trust with that shift alone in a store full of merchandise. You can still have cameras, as I'm sure they do, but really, this practice says that there is a whole shift that you can't trust not to blatantly steal. That seems like a total HR failure.
posted by rhyax at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2004


In that case, 'reasonable' means whatever minimizes costs versus risks. Thank you for playing. ;-P
posted by mischief at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2004


steve@lin: so you say it's not a big deal ? Tell me again when you need medical assistance and you're locked into a building. And btw, I guess I could lock you in your house or in your city so that you will not steal anything..hell I've got an idea I'll throw you in prison BEFORE you commit a crime ! Jebus they'll nominate me Manager of the Month with a fat bonus !
posted by elpapacito at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2004


If you can't trust one person on a night shift as a shift manager to have a key then I'd have to question your trust with that shift alone in a store full of merchandise.

Amen.

And the city council would have your job in minutes. How dare you shut down the biggest employer in town, yadda yadda yadda.

And you know, I think I'd blitz the local media at that point, with the sob story of how I was fired for trying to protect working families.
posted by ilsa at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2004


First off, you don't question authority and you learn to 'deal with the pain' before doing anything as rash as opening the firedoor or attempting to get healthcare.

I'm sorry, I don't agree with this policy one tiny bit, but these are adults. They have some level of responsibility for themselves. If they've got broken bones or are having possible heart attacks, then they've got to take the initiative to attend to their problems in the best way that they can and if they lose their $6 an hour job, that's not a worse fate than an ankle that ends up requiring pins because it was walked around on for several hours with a fracture or dying from an ignored heart attack.

Yes, there should always be a keyholder. Yes, this corporate policy of Wal-Mart sucks. Yes, this was wrong and wouldn't go on if Wal-Mart workers were unionized. But when you put your crap job above the fact that you've been hit by a friggin forklift and need medical attention, what do you want to be told? There was an option for these workers and they didn't take it.

Of course, it could be that the reason why they're working one of the crappiest jobs on earth is because they don't have the capacity for independent reasoning and can't realize that personal health and safety are priority issues, but I don't know why that's anyone else's fault.
posted by Dreama at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2004


Or maybe people shouldn't be forced to decide between getting medical attention and keeping their job. If an individual employer, say a construction contractor, did this to an employee, he would go to jail.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:29 PM on January 18, 2004


Aside from that, it is a little hard to lock-down when you want people to be able to come in to the store, namely customers.

It was irony.. I was supposing the "dodgy" people who work at night are hardly the store's biggest theft concern, speaking purely from how many day staff I know were fired for theft compared to night staff (one, and it was by taking things with him at the end of his shift, nicked from the broken goods area. He's been working there six weeks). When I worked at Big W (not really Australia's version of Walmart - it's really just like KMart, but slightly cheaper), on night shift, we had a shift manager and around five team leaders who all had keys / security codes to open doors except the cash room. We also had such amazing inventions as security cameras and those magnetic walkthrough "beepers" on every store exit. Trainee future store security guards would also often be put out undercover for a couple of weeks of night fill each to keep track of us. Despite all these mammoth expenses, Big W still remained competitive and there was a good relationship between management, staff and union. Hell, we were even let outside on our 1am break for a smoke!

Above and beyond all this though, any value system that places fear of non-violent theft of insured property above human health and safety is morally corrupt, and justifying such a reversal of compassionate values based on the employees being "shady", equally so. But don't worry Steve@, we still love you :)
posted by Jimbob at 1:37 PM on January 18, 2004


How sympathetic of you, Dreama. People who already have shitty jobs are forced to choose between those shitty jobs and their health. And then, while dealing with immense pain they're forced to make that choice and make the wrong one. And it's their fault. Nothing to do with the corporate whores who forced them into such a ridiculously unfair situation.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2004


Of course, it could be that the reason why they're working one of the crappiest jobs on earth is because they don't have the capacity for independent reasoning and can't realize that personal health and safety are priority issues, but I don't know why that's anyone else's fault.

Oh, come on. Somebody gets his ankle smashed, is lying on the floor screaming, and you expect him to be thinking clearly enough to not only decide what to do on his own, but also overcome conditioning in order to carry it out? Personally, I think it might have worked out a little better if the company had taught him what he should do in an emergency, as opposed to teaching him not to do it.

Most people can't think clearly in emergency situations. For this reason, such situations aren't the best time for logic, they're a time for performing an action you've thought out in advance. You should already know what to do. This is why good companies train their employees in exactly what to do if something happens, and why emergencies can quickly turn into disasters without that training.
posted by vorfeed at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2004


That's the good thing about Waffle Houses. Never locked, and no management on third shift, usually. If you are gonna work a crap job, go there.
posted by konolia at 3:12 PM on January 18, 2004


I broke my ankle once while walking down the street in NYC. I hailed a cab, took it to Grand Central, hobbled through the concourse and got on a train to my home, 90 minutes away. I didn't get an xray until the next morning.

Yeah, I was definitely thinking clearly.

On the other hand, maybe the guy WAS thinking somewhat clearly on a certain level. He loses job, he therefore loses health insurance. Broken bones are not cheap to fix, and the situation wasn't life-threatening.

At any rate, I'm glad to know that the ability to reason independently is so obviously and closely tied to socioeconomics. That explains why I've become a lot dumber in the last few years.
posted by gnomeloaf at 3:35 PM on January 18, 2004


I think I've just figured something out.

America hates the poor because the poor remind them that the American dream is mainly bullshit.

The poor reminds them that more often than not financial freedom and success are based on who you know, not how hard you work.

It is vital to keep the American Dream alive. It defines the culture. It's what makes America such a Great Place. It's an identity issue.

Admit that the poor are poor because they're getting screwed, and not because they're stupid or lazy, and you have to admit that the American Dream is a crock of shit.

Which means having to admit that perhaps America isn't such a great place. Which brings up a complex and frightening identity issue: if America isn't what we were dreaming it was, then what the hell is it?

Big and scary, that. Better off to blame the low-class workers for their problems. Stupid fucks, if they weren't so retarded or lazy they'd find themselves a better job with better medical care, hey? Damn straight. Long live The Dream!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:37 PM on January 18, 2004


Admit that the poor are poor because they're getting screwed, and not because they're stupid or lazy, and you have to admit that the American Dream is a crock of shit.

Tens of thousands of Mexicans who risk death or imprisonment trying to cross the border for the privelege of working a "shit job" would likely disagree.

Admit that the poor are poor because they're getting screwed, and not because they're stupid or lazy, and you have to admit that the American Dream is a crock of shit.


Doesn't the very existence of "rich people" mandate that "poor people" are to exist as well?

And what would you propose to do, FFF? Maybe we could appoint someone to make sure that only smart, hardworking people get to get rich? Or at least appoint someone to sepearte lazy and stupid poor people from smart and hardworking poor people?

Didn't Rage Against the Machine break up?
posted by trharlan at 4:14 PM on January 18, 2004


He loses job, he therefore loses health insurance.

Wal-Mart offers health insurance? I mean, in theory, maybe. But the only person I know who stuck it out long enough to be eligible for benefits was "laid off" two weeks before the goodies were set to kick in.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:31 PM on January 18, 2004


I'm surprised nobody's said this already.

Management says they'll bust you for using the fire escape if there's not a fire. Ok, simple. Drop a match in a wastebasket with a few bits of paper in it, in the middle of a wide open warehouse area where there's zero risk of it getting out of control. Open the fire exit. Use the fire extinguisher. Nice and legit. Nobody gets fired and the guy that needs a ride to the hospital is covered.
posted by ehintz at 4:36 PM on January 18, 2004


Of course, it could be that the reason why they're working one of the crappiest jobs on earth is because they don't have the capacity for independent reasoning and can't realize that personal health and safety are priority issues, but I don't know why that's anyone else's fault.

That's offensive, dreama. I know someone that works at wal-mart. He has a bachelors degree. This isn't the best economy right now, and it's not always so easy to get a good job. Is a broken ankle really a priority issue when you have a kid at home that needs food? Do you sacrifice your job to go to the hospital (which will be very expensive since you have no health insurance) and possibly not have enough money to support your kid, or just suck it up until the end of your shift? It's not as clear cut a situation as you seem to think, and to suggest that employees of wal-mart have no capacity for reason is irresponsible, lazy, and hateful.
posted by rhyax at 6:30 PM on January 18, 2004


Didn't Rage Against the Machine break up?

Yeah, but first they became rich people. And yet the Maoists still love them and you can buy their records at Wal-Mart.

It's all very confusing. This is why I forsake politics for candy and 45's.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2004


And what would you propose to do, FFF?

Well, for starters, I'd have us quit picking on the poor in this thread. "Any one stupid enough...", etc.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on January 18, 2004


Wal-Mart is a cancer consuming the American working class.
That is all.
posted by MikeMc at 7:38 PM on January 18, 2004


And then, while dealing with immense pain they're forced to make that choice and make the wrong one. And it's their fault.

Absolutely. Any time you make the wrong choice when the right one (or at least a better one) is available to you, it is your fault.

Now responsibility for the situation that led to having to make the choice, there's enough of that to share.
posted by rushmc at 9:53 PM on January 18, 2004


So, in other words: theft is justifiable due to their low wages, and shitty bosses?

- yes.
posted by johnnyboy at 3:56 AM on January 19, 2004


5freshfish: amen to that, with some rare exception confirming the general rule and I'd take "America" out of that because, to put it simply, America is a continent and continents don't think.

ehintz: yeah you could start a fire, estinguish it and it would be a patch to the problem ; unfortunately you'll be accused to be an arsonit saboteur if any camera catches you doing that, you go to jail for that , expecially now with HomerLand Sekurity witchhunt going on. And by the way, why should I be forced to do something illegal to save somebody life or to save MY life ? Think about that.
posted by elpapacito at 6:13 AM on January 19, 2004


"That's offensive" : So?
posted by mischief at 6:52 AM on January 19, 2004


Most people can't think clearly in emergency situations. For this reason, such situations aren't the best time for logic, they're a time for performing an action you've thought out in advance.

How many people survive outrageously unpredictable circumstances every single day because they stop, collect themselves, and formulate a plan for their own safety or survival (and often that of others around them) right there in the heat of the moment, sometimes in split seconds? If people can think clearly enough to save themselves under gunfire, in the face of raging fires or when tornadoes are bearing down on them, why can't they figure out what to do when the choice isn't between life and death but getting needed medical attention and possibly (remember, the immediate threat each of these workers described was a disciplinary report, not immediate firing) losing a job?

That's offensive, dreama. I know someone that works at wal-mart. He has a bachelors degree.

So presumably he'd be able to figure out that some things -- like broken bones -- don't wait for someone to come with a key and takes opportunities presented to him, like alarmed but unlocked fire exits.

This isn't the best economy right now, and it's not always so easy to get a good job. Is a broken ankle really a priority issue when you have a kid at home that needs food?

Yes, it is, if you take two minutes to stop and think about the fact that if you're crippled by severe pain because you complicated a fracture by failing to attend to it promptly, you are likely to find that your ability to provide for those kids over the long run is going to be compromised.

Do you sacrifice your job to go to the hospital (which will be very expensive since you have no health insurance) and possibly not have enough money to support your kid, or just suck it up until the end of your shift? It's not as clear cut a situation as you seem to think, and to suggest that employees of wal-mart have no capacity for reason is irresponsible, lazy, and hateful.

I didn't suggest that all workers of Wal-Mart have no capacity for reason. I suggested that anyone who hangs around waiting with a broken bone or a situation in which their very life is in danger (asthma attacks, chest pains) because they fear losing the low-pay, crappy job which put them in that situation to begin with has demonstrated little capacity for reason, for thinking in the long-term, setting priorities or being anything more than situationally obtuse. These are not character flaws, and they are things that people can overcome, but when they fail to do so, they bear the responsibility for that failure.

Once again: Wal-Mart has no right to lock people in. But these people weren't irrevocably locked in, they had options and did not exercise them, for whatever reason. That's sad, but true, and the responsibility for those decisions lay entirely with the people who made them. Wal-Mart bears the responsibility for creating the situation, but people are not slaves to their situations nearly so much as they are to their own personal limitations.
posted by Dreama at 6:59 AM on January 19, 2004


Konolia - in that chicken processing plant, the owner only went to prison for four years. Doesn't seem like much punishment for causing the deaths of many employees.
posted by agregoli at 7:24 AM on January 19, 2004


that is standard practice (right or wrong) for night crews. Nothing really shocking going on...

I'm shocked. I've never heard of this before. I'm amazed it's legal. What a degrading experience!
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:53 AM on January 19, 2004


If you are at the level of working for WalMart, finding another job of equal caliber is no great feat.
posted by mischief at 11:38 AM on January 19, 2004


I'm shocked. I've never heard of this before. I'm amazed it's legal. What a degrading experience!

I think the point is, it's sort of not legal. I mean, it's not legal to completely lock workers in, and it's only vaguely legal to lock them in with one point of exit if you tell them that you will fire them if they use that exit. Basically emergency exits are for emergencies, like fire, like a flood, like breaking your ankle, like an asthma attack, like hordes of killer bees. When management [who, the spokesperson at Wal-Mart graciously passes the buck to by saying how much turnover there has been -- no one NOW would be acting that way, certainly...] says "you will be fired if you use that door and there is not a fire" it may be letter-of-the-law legal but it is certainly unethical to a degree that even Wal-Mart would admit to. The article clearly states that Wal-Mart started making sure the lock-in-with-no-key business stopped when the reporters were nosing around. Keeping people locked in the building beyond when their shifts end is definitely illegal. Keeping you in the building during breaks is legal, however, at least in Vermont and Washington, since you're on the clock.

Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the US; it's not surprising that those weird cases where all the dopey save-money-at-all-costs policies they have sometimes seem to come together in the worst way possible to bite them on the ass. The point is that Wal-Mart, historic for employing the unemployable in addition to people who are just having a really rough time of it finding work, has sets of policies that require judgement. Judgement of the night manager to come in or not come in when called. Judgement of employees to have to balance getting fired versus waiting for that manager. Judgement of managers just how hard to push the "don't open that door" policy. Judgement to determine how bad an injury is versus how bad not working might be. Judgement that often operates without good knowledge of the law, and sometimes without the ability to prioritize or think rationally about the situation. The rules are in place -- especially at micromanaged places like Wal-Mart -- to preclude most human judgements. In these situations people were instructed to follow the rules in specific ways and manners that in some cases were inconsistent with their own instincts or, in some cases, the law.
posted by jessamyn at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2004


The rules are in place -- especially at micromanaged places like Wal-Mart -- to preclude most human judgements.

And that is profoundly immoral and dehumanizing.
posted by rushmc at 1:28 PM on January 19, 2004


Efficiency (as fond of it as I am, and as important as it may be from a strictly economic viewpoint) is not a moral mandate and should never trump human rights or human dignity.
posted by rushmc at 1:30 PM on January 19, 2004


Anyone working at WalMart has already forfeited their dignity. Don't rub it in, rush.
posted by mischief at 4:46 PM on January 19, 2004


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