‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Restrictions
In mid-March, as the coronavirus started to spread in New York and New Jersey, thousands of people, primarily in the grocery sector, were laid off from their employers.
In mid-March, when thousands of people, primarily in the grocery sector, were laid off from their employers, Walmart was still largely unscathed.
In the end, thousands of retail workers across the country were laid off. But for many, they had no reason to expect they would be making less money in the coming weeks. No doubt, many of them had been working for Walmart for years—or perhaps decades—and the layoffs were just a temporary bump in the road.
The company also decided to close some of its stores, which left thousands of employees without jobs. The closures included stores within the company’s massive distribution network and its corporate headquarters—where Walmart employees have spent years building their careers—in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Over the weekend, in an effort to stem the spread of the virus, Walmart announced the temporary closure of about 2,500 smaller stores—a decision workers have complained about for months.
However, the decision didn’t sit well with many workers, including those at Walmart. Walmart, they say, is taking the health of its workers under an undue amount of stress.
“I didn’t expect that kind of action,” said Lisa Lantagne, a former employee of Walmart’s corporate headquarters, who is now president of the Warehouse and Distribution Workers Union (WFDU). “I thought they were on our side. I thought they would wait and allow us to keep our jobs. But they’ve forced us to take this very hard. The timing of this wasn’t good to begin with. It will hurt our families and our communities, not to mention the people.”
As thousands of employees are now being laid off—or forced to work from home—and Walmart expands its closures, we’ll spend the next several hundred words looking at how Walmart’s leadership seems to put the welfare of its workers first—and how that strategy directly contradicts the company’s stated commitment to making America’s retail stores more health-conscious—and safer.
The company is in the middle of a huge reorganization. On Monday, Walmart announced that it had hired an executive who will oversee the