[Marxism] Wal Mart Swine Flu policies contribute to spread of disease
sabocat59 at gmail.com
Thu Nov 5 14:51:33 MST 2009
Stay Home if You Have Swine Flu, Unless You Work at Wal-Mart
Digg Tweet By Mary Kane 11/4/09 9:07 AM
During the summer, when swine flu was not yet a widespread reality in
the United States, giant retailer Wal-Mart made the news for being in
talks with the government about possibly distributing the swine flu
vaccine through its extensive network of stores.
But now the swine flu has Wal-Mart under scrutiny for a very different
reason: Accusations that the retailer is leaving employees infected
with swine flu little choice but to come to work, due to its punitive
sick leave policies.
Citing a report by the National Labor Committee, the Institute for
Southern Studies’ argues on its blog Facing South that Wal-Mart is
essentially contributing to the spread of swine flu by making it
financially prohibitive for employees to miss work when they fall ill.
Employees of the Arkansas-based retail giant — even its food
handlers — feel they have no choice but to work when they’re sick.
That’s because the company gives workers demerits and deducts pay for
staying home when they’re sick or caring for sick children.
It gets worse:
The situation is particularly difficult for Wal-Mart workers who
are single parents. The NLC reports on an instance in which an
employee got a call from her four-year-old’s preschool telling her to
pick up the child, who had a fever of 103 degrees F. Despite the fact
that the employee had already worked for four hours that day, she got
a demerit point for leaving and lost her wages for the rest of the
The report says: “Parents have no choice but to load their
children up with Motrin and Dimetap to mask their symptoms so they can
go to school.”
Which, of course, leads to a vicious circle of other children at
school becoming sick, and spreading it in their families. Not to
mention the misery of a sick child facing a full day of school.
What’s particularly interesting is that Wal-Mart includes on its
Website some information about swine flu, including frequently asked
questions. Here’s the answer to “What should I do if I get sick?”
Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making
others sick. Staying at home means that you should not leave your home
except to seek medical care. This means avoiding normal activities,
including work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public
Unless you work at Wal-Mart. Then, you’d better make it in for your
shift if you don’t want your pay docked or possibly lose your job.
>From Facing South:
Wal-Mart has a demerit system that punishes workers who cannot
come to work due to illness. Employees who miss a day due to sickness
receive a one-point demerit and lose eight hours of wages.
Employees with more than three absences a six-month period face
discipline, and a fifth absence — even for a sick day — will result in
what the company calls “active coaching” by management.
A sixth absence leads to what Wal-Mart calls “Decision Day,” when
a worker can be either terminated or put on a year-long trial period
during which time he or she can be fired for any infraction and cannot
The swine flu sometimes can cause people to miss an entire week or
more of work. At Wal-Mart, that could get you fired.
Somehow, I don’t think that’s what the Center for Disease Control was
hoping for this flu season, as it tries to contain a life-threatening
virus. Wal-Mart’s labor policies have long been contentious, but this
one could actually create a public safety issue. If these allegations
are true, it may be time for public health officials to step in
somehow, perhaps with fines for the retailer for keeping flu-stricken
employees on the job. And let’s not just pick on Wal-Mart; it’s very
possible that other low-wage retailers and business are doing the same
thing. Maybe the best option in the absence of any government action
is for customers to walk away. Is a bargain really worth it if
employees are forced to work while sick with the flu — and potentially
help to spread an unusually dangerous virus?
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