7/14/2009 Shafted An Article by Jim Hall with an intro by Dee
Shelbyville's Jim Hall, an accomplished journalist, talented writer and published author, contributed regular blog articles to this website for several months during 2008. In December of last year, Jim announced to readers that he was taking a sabbatical from Deebonner.com in order to devote more time to his other writing commitments.
When Jim decided to cease writing his regular blog articles, I assured him he had a standing invitation to submit future contributions whenever he wanted. He recently forwarded a new article for publication and I am pleased to be able to share it with you.
I also want to let new visitors to the site know that you can find all of Jim's previous articles in the Readers' Blogs Section under "First Amendment Activity." Many of his musings are timeless, so take a few minutes to scroll through the titles. I'm certain you'll find something of interest.
Jim's recent article follows:
Shafted by Jim Hall
The good news for thousands of former and current Indiana Wal-Mart hourly workers who have gotten the shaft from Wal-Mart stores, supercenters, distribution centers and Sam's Clubs: they are going to get some money from a class-action settlement.
The bad news: It may be about $1.19 apiece, like the checks Navin (the Steve Martin character in the film "The Jerk") wrote out to those injured by the "Opti-Grab" eyeglasses he designed.
Class-action agreements often really don't amount to much in the long run in these kinds of settlements - in this case $14 to $28 million (the amount to be awarded hasn't been determined). I do hope the shafted employees get more than a check for $1.19.
But the shafted Wal-Mart employees have to be happy to see at least some measure of justice dealt out to this American corporation that has a well-deserved reputation for shafting its employees.
Plaintiffs in this case claim that they were forced to work before they clocked in and also during their meal times. When an hourly worker is forced to work without pay, he/she is either: (1). A volunteer, or, (B). A slave.
I was a slave quite often during most of my 20-plus years of working as a newspaper reporter, copy editor and section editor. By law, I was an hourly worker and I worked hundreds of hours that I didn't get paid pay for.
In fact, I estimate that I was shafted out of about $100,000 by three newspapers: The Greencastle Banner-Graphic; The Greensburg Daily News; and, last but not least, our own The Shelbyville News. In the interest of full disclosure, I was not shafted by the current ownership of TSN because I never worked for them; it was the former ownership.
I would be told by my bosses that I had to write incorrect information (lie) on my weekly time cards and sign my name. By law, I was supposed to be paid overtime for any hours I worked over 40. At Greencastle and Greensburg, I worked on average about 60 hours a week and never got a cent of overtime. At The Shelbyville News, I did get paid some overtime when I first started working there in 1979, but eventually a "no-overtime" policy was adopted there, too.
Here's how it worked out. My bosses at The Shelbyville News would tell us that we could not document overtime hours on our signed time cards. But, of course, this did not stop them from assigning us work to do that - in my particular case - resulted in 50-60-70-hour work weeks. As a sportswriter AND reporter (they got a two-for-one deal in me), it was common for me to work seven days a week and two, three or even four nights a week. For all of that, I got paid less than the janitor at the post office.
So why didn't I protest about being treated as a slave? I did, repeatedly. But my bosses would respond: "Well, this work has to be done, so......" (wink, wink).
Also, I had heard about the reporter at the Bloomington (IN.) newspaper who took her employer to court for the overtime she was not paid. This reporter won the case, but then got fired by the newspaper a few weeks later.
Hourly workers in this state (and most others) have very few rights and legal protections. They are subjected to the many and varied whims and abuses heaped upon them by the companies they work for and the bosses they work for. I once had a boss who was certifiably psychotic. He forced me out of a job because I refused to spy on the personal life of a co-worker. I'm sure that most hourly workers reading this essay can cite their own stories.
But, at least in some relatively small measure, these shafted hourly wage employees in the Wal-Mart class-action suit appear to be winning a measure of justice.
My friendly advice to those Wal-Mart workers: When you do get that $1.19 settlement check in the mail, don't spend it on a made-in-a-Thailand-sweat-shop t-shirt at Wal-Mart.