By Michael Sainato
The Guardian (2/27/20)
Adam Ryan, 31, has worked at Target in Christiansburg, Virginia, for three years. He works additional jobs whenever he’s able to, but is regularly scheduled only 20 hours per week at Target, despite having open availability.
“I have to live with my family because I can’t afford rent on my own. I don’t have health insurance. I’ve had a rotting tooth in my mouth for years that I haven’t been able to receive treatment. I’ve applied for Medicaid in Virginia and every time I’m told I make too much money, and Target has told me I don’t qualify for their benefits because I don’t get enough hours,” said Ryan, who is also an organizer with Target Workers Unite, an independent initiative of Target workers.
He makes $13 an hour, the hourly minimum wage at Target since June 2019, which is scheduled to increase to $15 an hour by the end of 2020.
But Ryan and several other Target workers have noted a drastic reduction in scheduled hours and significant increases in workloads as Target has increased their minimum wage and rolled out a “modernization plan” in 2019 to increase efficiency. They think that broader influences in the retail sector are responsible for their plight – notably, the actions of their hard-charging rival Amazon.
“My biweekly paycheck doesn’t even pay rent. Co-workers of mine are losing health insurance and other benefits. My higher-ups still expect us to get the same amount of work done in a fraction of the time.”
“They’re responding to what Amazon is doing,” Ryan added. “They are trying to turn these stores into their own distribution centers, using brick-and-mortar stores. We have to be warehouse workers and customer service workers.”
Target Workers Unite recently released a survey of more than 500 Target workers around the US, representing 382 different stores in 44 states. Only 12.7% of the workers who responded said they could survive on the wages from Target alone, with 56% of workers citing they have ran out of food while employed at Target, and 12.8% of workers reported experiencing homelessness.
Targeting labor organizers
The survey also provides some insight into Target’s opposition to workers organizing. Some 54% of workers surveyed report management telling them not to discuss wages with other workers and 41.6% of workers report workers have been reprimanded by management for discussing workplace issues in the store or on social media.
As Target workers report struggling to make ends meet while experiencing cuts to their schedules, loss of benefits, and increased workloads, Target reported record share prices at the end of 2019. …
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(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2020. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )