Of all the things for which Wal-Mart could be criticized, charitable donations doesn’t usually come to mind. That’s exactly what’s at the source of the company’s latest controversy, however.
At a store in Canton, OH, an employees-only section currently has bins on display, where employees can donate food for a food drive intended to help those less-fortunate through the Thanksgiving season. The only catch is that the food is not intended for community members, but for other employees of the company. A sign above the bins reads “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need can enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner.”
Critics of the food drive claim that it demonstrates how Wal-Mart unfairly pays its employees. One unnamed employee referred to the gesture as “demoralizing” and “kind of depressing” after finding food in her store locker.
Despite the criticisms, the food drive obviously began with good intentions. Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg explained that the food drive addresses issues that may have been occurring in employees’ homes that are not necessarily related to their Wal-Mart wages.
“[The food drive] is for associates who have had some hardships come up. Maybe a spouse lost a job. This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” Lundberg said to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The issue over the Thanksgiving food drive has become so divisive because the debate about Wal-Mart wages is currently gaining traction, as numerous protest groups have staged strikes throughout the country. A group called the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) most recently staged demonstrations and strikes in Cincinnati and Dayton, according to Talking Points Memo. The main goal of the organization is to ensure that associates make at least $25,000 per year and are treated more fairly when complaining about low wages or poor working conditions.
While it’s tough to criticize a company for attempting to help its employees, the debate over the issue does call to question whether or not the company should be helping its employees in a different way. OUR Walmart has plans to hold a demonstration against Walmart working conditions this Black Friday.