Editorial Nov 27

The holidays are upon us. For most, they’re considered a time of giving and sharing. For others, they’re a much-needed break from the daily grind.

Based on recent news, if you work at McDonald’s or Walmart, they’re neither.

McDonald’s has been in the news all year for its perceived insensitivity toward its bottom-rung employees. In July, McDonald’s employee budget planner came out, which advised employees to take a second job in order to pay the bills, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Just this past week, McDonald’s struck again with a move that would make Ebenezer Scrooge cackle with delight. McResource, a help site for McDonald’s employees suggested selling unopened Christmas gifts “for quick cash,” according to Business Insider.

The McResource site also suggested employees “stop complaining,” because “stress hormones rise by 15 percent after 10 minutes of complaining.” Of course, the company also suggested that hourly employees take two vacations a year to get rid of that stress.

Not to be outdone, Walmart has some fantastic holiday cheer for you. While bell-ringers and donation bins are a common sight this time of year, a Walmart in Canton, Ohio has a donation box for its own employees, according to a Yahoo Business article.

A plastic storage bin sits with a printed sign on it, reading “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need [sic] can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.”

A Walmart spokesperson said the donation bin was in the employee break room, and was merely meant for associates to help one another through the holiday season.

MarketWatch lists Walmart has having made $461.9 billion dollars in revenue last year, and apparently they can’t spare any of that to help employees in need.

Meanwhile, Walmarts wages are low enough that a group of Minneapolis employees walked out on the job Monday, Nov. 25, according to WCCO CBS Minnesota. This comes after a Nov. 8 act of civil disobedience in which 54 people in Los Angeles – both employees and supporters – were arrested by police in riot gear for protesting Walmart’s “poverty wages,” according to the Huffington Post.

The same Huffington Post shows anywhere between 525,000 and 825,000 employees earn less than $25,000 per year.

It’s not just Walmart employees or their families that suffer, either. Walmart’s low wages are often offset by government assistance programs like Medicaid. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance estimates at least $4 billion in taxpayer money goes toward keeping Walmart’s employees financially afloat every year.

But Walmart and McDonald’s have one last gift left to give for the holidays. To get a jump on Black Friday sales, Walmart has decided its stores will stay open Thanksgiving Day. So even if some employees can afford holiday dinners, they’ll be too busy working to sit down with family and enjoy it, according to the Huffington Post’s Rebecca Smith. McDonald’s is also urging its franchises to stay open Thanksgiving Day, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.

McDonald’s and Walmart are certainly not the only two businesses who are pulling these stunts, but they’re certainly the most visible. In a desperate bid for your holiday dollar, they’re driving their own employees to poverty while offering platitudes instead of actual help.

While a few isolated incidents of Walmart employees walking off the job may make the news, it probably won’t matter to a corporate goliath. What might matter, however, is a dent in their bottom line.

Make a conscious decision from now on to shop only at stores that treat their employees fairly. Are employees fairly compensated? Are they given holiday time? The answer to these questions should also be the answer to “should I shop here?”

Tell the corporate giants you’ve had enough. They won’t be visited by three ghosts, so they’re not going to change until they feel the sting in their pocketbooks.