Low-Wage Walmart Workers Angry Over New Uniform Mandate

Wal-Mart Employees Angered By New Dress Code
On a day when low-wage workers plan strikes in 150 cities because of pay rates and short hours, many Walmart employees have something new to stoke their anger: a changed dress code forcing them to buy new clothing, according to Gawker. And they've been sounding off on internal company online forums.

The "new look" for customer service personnel, as a Walmart.com website page explains, includes "collared navy blue or white shirts, khaki or black pants, capris, skirts or skorts." And, to help ease the burden, as Gawker reports, Walmart has reminded employees that they can buy the products from the store and "apply your 10 percent associate discount for an additional savings," or even get them online. Walmart is paying for the vests it will require employees to wear.

Some employees are apparently unhappy. Walmart workers can leave comments about company policies on an internal website. Someone leaked some of the contents to Gawker. Here are verbatim examples of some alleged comments:

I work 2 jobs Walmart is my part time job but I work these 2 jobs for a reason, to take care of my family. It is pretty bad that my full time job is a administrative assistant in a law office and I can wear jeans there, but I can't wear jeans in a grocery store. This whole mess is just non-sense.

Ive been at Walmart 21 yrs and i tend to keep buying better quality clothing other than the standard polo for a better appearance at work and it seems like its a waste of my money to keep changing the dress code and we are not given any clothing allowance or given 2 shirts for free.

With all due respect to the company, this is more of a financial burden to our family since this is our only source of income with my wife and two kids. We can hardly afford to live on my income now with us having to pay for a new uniform (aside from the vest). It's silly. The uniform we have now works. Why change it?

According to Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg, part of the old dress code was khaki trousers, which would still be allowed. The sticking point is blue or white collared shirts.

"We're certainly hearing from our associates," Lundberg told AOL Jobs. But we're [also] hearing from a large number of associates who are looking forward to the new dress code." He said that Walmart began to inform employees in July about the upcoming changes so they would have time to prepare and purchase the shirts.

Although Walmart's average full-time wage is $12.92, according to its corporate website, many workers make well below that number and approximately 40 percent of the company's workers are part-time.

However, many Walmart workers have near-minimum wage incomes, which is why some have complained that updating a wardrobe for work is a burden. "The wages that Walmart pays are competitive with any other retailer out there," Lundberg said. "You can't hire good people if you're not [paying] competitively."

He also said that markets determine wages. However, it would be more accurate to say that markets effectively determine lowest wages, as retail is notorious for being a poorly-paying industry. Companies can choose to pay employees more. For example, Costco starts employees at $11.50 an hour and the average hourly wage is $21.

Walmart's annual report for its most recently completed year showed a profit of more than $16 billion.

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