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  • The New York Times reported over the weekend that “having failed to unionize any Wal-Marts, American labor unions have helped form a new and unusual type of workers' association to press Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to improve its wages and working conditions.”

    This new group has, according to the NYT, formed its first beachhead in Florida, with membership that includes almost 200 former and current Wal-Mart employees, all of whom are paying dues of $5 per month. It isn’t exactly a union, in the sense that it is not a negotiating unit, though it is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Acorn, an advocacy group for low-income people.

    More important to the company seems to be the use of the bully pulpit to draw attention to what the employees feel is improper treatment of the employees by Wal-Mart. Addressing what it says “is the company's practice of reducing the hours that many employees work, often from 40 a week to 34, 30 or even fewer, jeopardizing some workers' health benefits,” the NYT writes, the “group is urging the State of Florida to grant unemployment benefits to workers whose hours have been cut back by Wal-Mart. It is arguing that workers who quit Wal Mart because the reduced hours meant they were not earning enough to live on deserve jobless benefits. It also wants supplemental jobless benefits for workers with reduced hours who remain at Wal-Mart.”

    Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesman, tells the Times, "Our wages are competitive within the retail workplace. We work hard to make health care premiums affordable.”

  • Walt Disney Co. agreed to give Wal-Mart exclusive rights to sell a direct-to-DVD holiday video, “The 3 Wise Men,” through the end of 2005. The DVD will be available in both English and Spanish language versions.

    No word on whether the Wise Men will have bought the gold, frankincense and myrrh for always low prices from the Bethlehem Wal-Mart…

  • Wal-Mart reportedly will launch a test program this year that will place nurse practitioners in a dozen of its stores, offering for a flat fee of $45 services for conditions such as strep throat, pink eye, lice and irritable bowel syndrome. The installations also will offer vaccinations and basic screening services for fees that range from $15 to $200, depending on the procedure.

    Four different outsourcing companies will be providing the well-care services for Wal-Mart depending on the location. If the initial tests and screenings by the nurse practitioners suggest that the customer ought to visit a doctor, referrals and recommendations will be made.

  • Wal-Mart has officially reversed itself on an earlier assertion about Jared Bowen, a former corporate vice president who was fired after he allegedly informed company management about supposed financial fraud being perpetrated by the its then vice chairman Thomas Coughlin. Bowen says he was fired because he brought attention to high level shenanigans at the company, while Wal-Mart says he was complicit in Coughlin’s fraud.

    The backpedaling that Wal-Mart had to do, however, concerned Bowen’s falsified college transcript, which he supplied to the company when he applied for a job there. Bowen said he had confessed to the false transcript back in 1998, which Wal-Mart had denied, saying that in part it was the discovery of the falsification two months ago that led in part to his firing. Now, Wal-Mart says that he indeed did confess in 1998.

  • Wal-Mart Stores announced that it is canceling its annual managers meeting at which plans for the upcoming holidays are made because the Dallas Convention Center – the venue where it was scheduled to be held – is being used to shelter New Orleans residents who have been evacuated from that city.

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