Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Final Word on My Working at Wal-Mart

Most of my Facebook posts and Tweets have recently been about work. It is pretty much the all consuming force in my life right now, the only actual human interaction I get, the only exercise, the only money, the dominant stress, etc. And I am sick of writing about it in short bursts, so I will write this and that is it. Okay then.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be fired. I've never really been fired before. And if Wal-Mart believed at all in being sensible, I wouldn't be in any trouble. You see, I got my first "coaching" on Sunday, which is the equivalent of being sent to the principle's office in high school. Though, to be honest, usually that meant you had done something pretty cool and I have not ever done a single thing cool at work.

Essentially it comes down to them wanting us to work three times faster. According to the managers, as an unloader (though that is not my official title it is what I am) we were supposed to unload the 2500 piece truck in an hour-and-a-half. Usually it takes us about two-and-a-half hours to do it when only five people make up the crew. As the two managers told us of the new time restriction (something which I did not hear about until the coaching already commenced), they said the overnight stockers used to complain about how they are timed, but found they could accomplish it.

And I guess that is true. But when this new program started all I heard about from the overnighters was that it was being used to fire full-time employees and bring in part-timers for less pay. I do not know if that is true. Hm... Still, I just got a 30 cent raise and a new person would cost less.

The thing is, I don't know how much faster I can go, or how much faster everyone else can. As it is I'm the only one who runs when we unload the truck. Perhaps I should explain how it works. We each have departments for which we are responsible:

Cases come on the truck stacked up to or nearly up to the ceiling of said truck. A person then throws each box onto the conveyor line. I am usually tasked with pushing the boxes down the line where we grab the ones for the departments we are in charge of and stack those boxes on the appropriate pallet.

What ends up happening is I have more space to cover so I have to run to keep things moving along smoothly. And I work hard. I don't talk to anybody when I'm working if I don't have to. I try to find something to do if I am waiting. In fact, I start getting antsy on those few occasions I run out of things to do so I jump over the conveyor and start helping over there sometimes.

I end up all scratched and bruised up by the end of the day (or I would be bruised up if I was good at bruising, they just end up being small discolorations that go away). Three pairs of my jeans have holes I have had to patch because I have to squeeze into some tight spaces to push out the boxes the further into the truck the conveyor gets; which, even though I'm good at that, tends to rub my jeans at the same spot over and over, creating the holes.

And some of the managers, including the manager of the store, have said I'm a really good worker (though sometimes I think people tell me stuff like that just to get something out of me, just my paranoia). But I can't throw the truck as fast as they want it done. Even the fastest guy we have can not do it that fast.

One of the managers told us this is a way to "weed out the people who can't do the job." What? We finish our work everyday and then do the next shifts work in the backroom and finish that too. Not everybody works as hard as I do; some of them are just quicker at somethings because they have been doing it longer. But, so? We finish everything! What else do they want?

That is why the idea has been circulating that they just want to get rid of us and bring in people at minimum wage. It seems to make sense. I don't know. But if they want us to work as unsafe as possible, that is what is going to happen. We already work unsafe anyway. Boxes say "team lift" on them and only if it is too big to wrap your arms around, nobody asks for help. Even at the "slow" rate we go now, we don't have time to wait for someone to help lift a box.

A good size crew is seven. That is optimum and we race through work when we have that many people. Two Saturdays ago we had only four, and one of those came in over an hour late. So, looking at my diagram up there, I was working the one complete side of the line and sprinting up and down to cover it. Even when the other guy got there I still had to cover that side alone with him on the opposite side of me (the pink and grey side). So I am running (which gets tiring after an hour-and-a-half) and holding my own. I felt like the Tasmanian Devil, except without destroy things. Then when I planted my right foot to turn right, I slipped on something slippery on the floor and hit my shin on a pallet. But whatever, I had to keep going and nothing was broken, so I just jumped up (plus it's embarrassing to fall either way) and continued on. That is the sort of thing that will happen more and more often now. And considering that myself, at the age of 24, is able to sleep off dislocated fingers, having a foot run over by a double stacked pallet of kitty litter, a dislocated shoulder and a nice, deep glass cut, I don't worry too, too much about my health. I'm young. I'm invincible... But my older co-workers? Even as tough as a person can be, it should be easier for me to bounce back than them.

So I am going to be a maniac at work now. I started running up and jumping off ladders which speeds me up. I'll keep my job if it kills me. I consider this punishment either for making stupid, stubborn decisions (a journalism degree, really? Just because you "don't want to do anything boring," knowing full well how you have a hard time talking to people, especially when you don't know them. Most people don't enjoy their job. Should have just gone into engineering or something math and science related. You're good at that. What the hell is wrong with you?).

Of course, not many people appreciate what I do anyway. It is just expected now. One time somebody thanked me without taking my help for granted. That felt nice that one time. Maybe it is time to move on. But I don't want some stupid rules to push me out! I don't like being pushed! I'm a pusher, not a pushee! Ha! Wordplay! Oh, man, this was rambling. If none of it makes sense, just rearrange the words into something better.

Anyway, I need the money too much to do anything but work harder.