..a commercial for Wal-Mart. When a Wal-Mart shows up within a television within a Wal-Mart, you have to question the existence of an outer world"(Ehrenreich, 179). The author is highly critical of places like Wal-Mart for she knows that these are the places where you do not get what you must as a citizen of the U.S. She writes: "When you enter the low-wage workplace -- and many of the medium- wage workplaces as well -- you check your civil liberties at the door, leave America and all it supposedly stands for behind, and learn to zip your lips for the duration of the shift." (p. 210)
Wal-Mart is described as an overpowering omnipresent entity that makes a worker feel like a prisoner. With most of the people coming from the most vulnerable section of the society like Holly who is " twenty-three, has been married for almost a year, and manages to feed her husband, herself and an elderly relative on $30-50 a week" (pp. 96-97) the author feels that drug tests and other such tests that Wal-Mart asks each employee to take are just another way of making you feel inferior. She writes:
Among the propositions I am asked to opine about are "Some people work better when they're a little bit high," "Everyone tries marijuana," and bafflingly, "Marijuana is the same as a drink." Hmm, what kind of drink? I want to ask. "The same" how -- chemically or morally? Or should I write in something flippant like "I wouldn't know because I don't drink?" (pp. 58-59)
And Ehrenreich maintains that the real purpose is to make you feel like a property owned by Wal-Mart. The message being sent is: "You will have no secrets from us. We don't want your muscles and that portion of your brain that is directly connected to them, we want your innermost self." (p. 59) This is the impression that hiring process at Wal-Mart gives and when all this is done, the firm tries to make it clear that they are so powerful that your voice simply does not and will not count. In such conditions, it is no wonder that Wal-Mart has an equally insignificant healthcare plan that tries its best to provide the minimum possible coverage to minimum possible number of employees. In a corporation where most workers come from houses that live below the poverty line, it's really sad that healthcare coverage is so thinly spread out. These corporations fully understand that its impossible on live on the wages that they offer and most of their workers have more than one job, still they fail to provide healthcare and except employees to co-pay from that meager income they get.
Wal-Mart should show greater concern since most of its employees come from areas where obesity is the highest. Bad eating habits and poor food choices made by the working class had turned obesity and other health risks into major threats. And hence most of the employees at Wal-Mart have some health problems. This coupled with low healthcare coverage takes the Wal-Mart healthcare problem to new heights. The UCFW report highlights some interesting though disturbing facts: "The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2002, average spending on health benefits for each of Wal-Mart's 500,000 covered employees was $3,500 -- almost 40% less than the average for all U.S. corporations and 30% less than the rest of the wholesale/retail industry. The Walton family is worth about $98 billion. Just 1% of the family wealth could provide affordable health care for all Wal-Mart employees." (UCFW)
This highlights the serious weaknesses of Wal-Mart healthcare plan. The company needs to understand that it has some responsibilities that come with being a billion dollar business. The most important responsibility it has is towards its employees who must be treated with care and concern. The firm must try to improve its healthcare facilities and make its plan more affordable for all employees.
UFCW report: "Wal-Martization of Health care." Retrieved online 22 Jan 2007: