News broke late Saturday July 12 that comedian Tracy Morgan is suing Walmart over the fatal crash that happened June 7. The lawsuit claims that Walmart is partly responsible for the crash that took the life of comedian Jimmy Mack and injured at least two others, including Tracy Morgan. While some are blaming Walmart’s employee the incident further highlights the company’s employment practices. The driver of the Walmart stores truck had not slept in 24 hours. He drove more than eleven hours to a Walmart distribution center in Smyrna, Delaware from his Jonesboro, Georgia home. He was then allowed to continue his trucking route. Prosecutors claim Kevin Roper fell asleep at the wheel and charged with vehicular homicide.
Considering the details surrounding the incident it brings into question, “What are Walmart’s practices concerning drivers and their safety procedures?” In their stores, Walmart had been accused by their managers to under staff in response to low sales, causing overworked employees. Last year Bloomberg News reported that Walmart decreased their staff by 20,000, then added about 455 new stores in the last five years. In Missouri, a class action suit was filed by more than 150,000 workers claiming mistreatments such as denial of rest and lunch breaks.
“I pay low wages. I can take advantage of that. We’re going to be successful, but the basis is a very low-wage, low-benefit model of employment.” The statement was made by the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton. According to PBS’s Frontline, the company still lives up to exploiting these circumstances. Up until 2008, redeemable only at Walmart, employees at Walmart of Mexico were being paid in store vouchers. This practice was ordered to stop by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice. As of 2005, Walmart health benefits covered less than half of their worker’s children. Experts suspect that Walmart’s goal of cutting health care benefits by one billion dollars will have more of their employees depending on Medicaid than any other major retailer. As of 2013, employees who work less than 30 hours do not qualify for company health benefits.
Not much has come to light about Walmart’s practices when it comes to their drivers. According to a Walmart spokesperson, the driver that caused the accident that incited the lawsuit filed by Tracy Morgan was operating within federal standards and driving no more than 11-hour shift. On average American truck drivers work 70-80 hour work weeks, increasingly deregulated over the years. The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that workers be paid overtime after a 40-hour work week. Many drivers in the U.S. are not covered under this act. It’s typical for drivers to be paid by the mile. Time spent loading and unloading go unpaid. It’s been highlighted that drivers who are not compensated for that time jeopardize safety by working more hours than they should.
Walmart has been particularly virulent against labor Unions. Several websites and documentaries claim that they went so far as to include anti-union training in their management and new hire training videos and documents. There are endless allegations of the companies’ mistreatment of employers. Documentaries like Walmart, the High Cost of Low Prices spotlights a multitude of the filmmakers consider sins and mistreatment of workers. The documentary claims that the corporations face labor and wage-related lawsuits in more than 30 states.
Walmart and the accident involving Tracy Morgan are undoubted spotlights of a much bigger problem in America. Powerful anti-union lobbyist funded by mega corporations like Walmart continue to push for laws and regulations considered against the best interest of the average American worker. Walmart Spent more than seven million dollars last year lobbying against things like The Employee Free Choice Act for ending anti-bribery laws, and for increasing Tax cuts for the rich. Wage gap becomes a broader issue each year. Perhaps Hollywood comedian Tracy Morgan can help call attention to Walmart’s practices concerning their workers.
By Ashley Poag