Walmart’s Low Prices: Do They Come From Cheating Women?

Walmart is facing potentially the largest class action suit ever brought against a company. Estimates run as high as one million employees involved although Walmart has stated that it thinks it is “only” half a million. 

Walmart is now in the process of trying to get its case tossed out of court. In its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court it stated that each store is its own entity and therefore Walmart as an overall company can’t be sued. It also argued that there are too many potential plaintiffs and that the size of the suit renders it unmanageable.

This suit is significant not just because of its size. It will mark the first time a major company has been required to defend its pay and promotion policies in terms of sex discrimination. The original suit, which was brought in 2001 by seven women, alleged that female employees are consistently paid less than male employees, are promoted less often than men, and wait longer for chances for promotion.

It was subsequently decided that the suit qualified as a class action suit, and that it covers every woman employed at Walmart from 1998 to the present.

A class action suit makes it impossible for an individual woman to sue on her own behalf, but the sheer numbers in this suit would doubtless make a bigger impact on Walmart’s (and other companies’) pay and promotion policies in the future. If Walmart loses, it would take a financial hit of billions of dollars. Individual women suing Walmart would barely be noticed unless they won multimillion dollar settlements (which is not likely).

By rights, this suit, and Walmart’s attempts to wiggle out of it, should be headline news all through the fall, when the Supreme Court will probably rule on it. And it may well be, but I doubt it will be because it is about women. Its main significance is probably going to be seen as its impact on future class action suits instead of on how women employees are treated at Walmart. It’s only the sheer size of the suit that’s putting it in the headlines at all.

Some people will defend Walmart because they know women who are happy working there. But that doesn’t mean that Walmart isn’t guilty of the charges against it. (After all, slavery wasn’t right, even though some slave owners were humane and some slaves seemed to be happy with their lot.) I’m sure there are individual women who have done well at Walmart, at least in their eyes. But do they really know how much better off they could have done if Walmart didn’t have a discriminatory policy?

Others will defend Walmart because they simply don’t believe that there is any discimination against women in this day and age. These are the same people who declare that there is no longer any use for feminism, because its battles have all been won.

But if this suit has any merits, it would seem that they haven’t all been won. Those who would treat women inequitably are still our enemies.

 [Note: It’s interesting that whenever feminists talk in terms of a war against inequality, they are labeled as man-haters. That’s a misconception. Feminists are aware that some women are traitors to their own sex, even if unwittingly. And some men are our greatest champions. I’m sure that there are men and women at Walmart who discriminate against women. So I’m not just talking about men when I mention enemies. I’m talking about anyone who has adopted the “party line,” who goes along with those who think it’s fair to pay and promote men more than women.]

How to Alleviate Job Stress

Earlier this month, a JetBlue flight attendant named Steven Slater made headlines by his reaction to job stress: he loudly tendered his resignation over the airplane’s public address system, grabbed two beers and exited using the emergency chute. What set him off specifically? Having to deal with yet another rude and unruly passenger.

What was up with that? Couldn’t he have found another way to express his anger? Perhaps, but you have to admit that the way he chose certainly caught the public’s attention (not to mention the attention of his employer).

What is ironic is that the same day he conducted this unusual “exit interview,” The Wall Street Journal featured an article about how employers  are shocked that they can’t find people to work for them, even though unemployment is high. Apparently people won’t just take any old job: they’ve reached their limit in their willingness to take on stressful jobs, whether the stress is from low pay or poor working conditions, or both.

The next day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. productivity rates have actually fallen for the first time in over a year, to a 0.9% annual rate. The reasoning behind this statistic is that American workers just can’t work any harder. They’re being asked to do more than is humanly possible.

People lucky enough to keep their jobs are expected to do the work left behind by those who have been fired. Companies don’t care how stressful this is for their workers; all they care about is cutting labor costs. But the end result might be lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more money paid out in sick leave, medical costs and disability payments for workers who have burnt out from job stress.

Women are hit particularly hard by this phenomenon. Many women already work at stressful jobs like nursing, waitressing and teaching and now they’re getting less time to do more work than ever before. Add this to the stress they deal with from juggling jobs and home work (keeping the household running) and it’s no wonder that women report more depression, anxiety and medical problems related to stress than men do (although this is also partly because men are reluctant to admit that they’re having trouble handling stress).

It should be said that work stress doesn’t always cause mental and physical health problems, but it can make pre-existing conditions worse. So much worse that the worker may find that he or she eventually can’t work at all.

Some stress is good for us: it keeps us on our toes and functioning more efficiently. But too much stress makes for a sick and tired work force. Sick and tired of “taking it.” But most people don’t have a choice. They keep on trying to run like a hamster in a hamster wheel. On some occasions, they run themselves to death.

Is it coincidental that many  more women are dying of heart attacks than cancer? That they die of them at a higher rate than men do within one year of having one (for people 40 and older)? [Source here.]

And that’s not even counting the stunted lives that come from having chronic depression or anxiety. We try to keep up, but the harder we try, the more we fall behind.

Because I hate to be given advice, I also hesitate to give it. But I can’t end this post without pointing out a few things a woman can do to decrease her job stress and increase her mental and physical health.

They are:

  1. Learn to stick up for yourself at work and how to do so calmly but firmly. If you have trouble with this, enlist the help of a union, if there is one. That’s what unions are for: to be your advocate.
  2. Know what your rights are. Make sure you’re getting regular pay reviews. Brush up on the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  3. Follow the rules. It’s less stressful to make sure you’re never late or never take of work “just for the heck of it” than it is to have to fight a disciplinary action.
  4. Report harassment. This doesn’t just include sexual harassment. Anything that makes your workplace toxic should be reported to Human Resources or the appropriate manager.
  5. Take advantage of any Employee Assistance Program your company may have. This is a set number of counseling sessions that your employer is obligated to provide you at no cost to you. The programs also offer assessment and referrals to outside counseling and resources.
  6. Find a mentor: a sympathetic person at work (or elsewhere) who is willing to give you good advice and be a source of inspiration and strength.
  7. Look for less-stressful job positions at the company you already work for. A different department or shift can make all the difference.
  8. If there are no better positions or you hate your company, keep job hunting. There are other solutions. You just have to be open to them.
  9. Don’t just look for a higher-paying job; take into account the working conditions and benefits. Studies have shown that people cite “good working conditions” as more important to them than “higher pay.”
  10. Consider self-employment. While this can also be stressful, it may be worth it, if you’re truly unhappy working for someone else.

In addition to these tips, make sure that you:

  1. Get regular check-ups. Tell your doctor if you’re having symptoms of stress. This includes mental as well as physical symptoms. If he or she doesn’t take you seriously, go to another doctor.
  2. Educate yourself on symptoms of heart disease and follow the recommendations for avoiding or alleviating it. This includes signs of strokes as well as heart attacks.
  3. Get regular exercise. Make sure your get your doctor’s okay if you’re thinking of taking up something which is fairly strenuous. Find some kind of guidance program for maximum efficiency and safety.
  4. Modify your diet. Learn to prepare healthy meals. Keep healthy foods on hand for snacks. Eat smaller but more frequent meals. Make sure you have something to go on during your work day.
  5. Stop smoking. Stop drinking excessively. (A glass of red wine a day is recommended if you don’t have a problem with alcohol.)
  6. Drink plenty of water. Carry a water bottle with you at all times, if possible. Make sure your only fluids aren’t pop or coffee. They don’t satisfy your body’s hydration requirements.
  7. Find an absorbing hobby. Take a course in something you’ve always been interested in. Buy season tickets or annual memberships for something you enjoy (you’ll be more likely to regularly participate).
  8. Beef up your belief system. Find a group of like-minded individuals and spend time with them. (This doesn’t have to be a religion; it could be a group that is concerned about the environment or social justice, for instance.)
  9. Restrict your access to the news if you find yourself getting agitated or depressed by it. Find sources that propose solutions and cause you to think rather than just react.
  10. Make time for yourself every day, even if it’s just a few minutes to pray or write in a journal. Pamper yourself occasionally. Take mini-vacations. Make memories.

Job and life stress are controllable. First you need to determine the level of stress you’re living with. Then you need to learn to recognize any physical or psychological signs of harmful stress. And finally, you need to do something about it.

Go here for more information about stress: types, causes, symptoms and treatment.

Tuesday Tidbits

Whoops! Turns out Proposition 8 is going to be in effect for a little while longer. For more information, go to the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog. For more thoughts on the prospects for Proposition 8, or its ban, go here.

  • Teen sex doesn’t mean bad grades, says new study. Not all teens are just “hooking up.” Some are in committed relationships and that makes all the difference.
  • Open letter from a mama grizzly to Sarah Palin. Palin’s use of the term “mama grizzly” is like her use of the word “feminist.” She appropriates both as if all mamas and fems think like her. Not!
  • On August 2nd, HBO Documentaries aired a new film about abortion called 12th and Delaware. (See trailer here.)  So far no word on when it will be shown again, but I advise you to watch out for it. It sounds fascinating.

[The] documentary seeks to offer “a fly-on-the-wall view of the ideological trench warfare” that happen on the intersection of Delaware Avenue and 12th Street, Fort Pierce, Florida, where Woman’s World Health Clinic, a privately owned abortion clinic, and an anti-abortion Pregnancy Care Center are situated across the road from each other.

Is Erection a Health Care Right?

Andrew Malcolm wrote this in the LA Times‘ “The Top of the Ticket”  on August 13, 2010:

The Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association has gone to court asking a judge to order the financially strapped school board to reinstate coverage for Viagra, Levitra, Cialis and other erectile dysfunction drugs in union members’ healthcare plans. The union claims that excluding such coverage discriminates against the male gender.

In clearly less important news, facing growing benefit costs and shrinking revenues, the board in June had to lay off about 400 classroom teachers, the first such cuts there in decades.

At this time of stubborn national unemployment for millions, some silly people might question the wisdom of a labor union representing people with actual jobs launching legal action over a $20 pill to improve the functioning of a member of a member.

The school board claims the famous little starter pills are recreational, not medically necessary, and would cost the city $787,000 a year. Offhand, that seems like a lot of educators’ erections, but it’s also enough money to employ 12 full-time teachers of either gender.

A state labor commission recently ruled against the teachers’ sexual discrimination complaint, stating in part that the union had failed to identify by name the specific discriminated members who need the erectile dysfunction drug.

Stand by for that.

What’s your position on this issue?

The Hidden World of Girls

A NEW KITCHEN SISTERS RADIO SERIES ON NPR

THE KITCHEN SISTERS are launching a new NPR multimedia series exploring the hidden world of girls. Stories of coming of age, rituals and rites of passage, secret identities—of women who crossed a line, blazed a trail, changed the tide.  Listen:

JOIN US – TELL US YOUR STORY

telephoneCall the NPR Message Line – 202-408-9576. Tell us your stories and ideas. Share your photos, audio, video. We hope you’ll join us in this quest.

To go directly to the website, click here. Or check it out on Facebook here.