Then came Oct. 26 ... and the peacock's plumes drooped. An internal corporate memo had been leaked to the media showing a bird of a different feather. In it, an executive vice president sent a series of recommendations to the board of directors on ways to cut back on employees' benefits, thus saving the company a billion or so a year, while appearing for PR purposes to be offering more benefits.
For example, the memo called for offering some education benefits as a lure to younger workers. How nice! But the real motive here is to push out workers who've been at Wal-Mart for a while and have earned higher pay and more benefits. The memo noted that someone with a seven-year tenure costs the corporation 55 percent more than a first-year worker -- yet is no more productive. Better to ratchet up the turnover and rid the company of those more expensive veterans. Not nice.
Other not-nice recommendations were to hire more part-time workers (they don't get benefits), cut 401(K) contributions by one-fourth and slash company-paid life insurance benefits by nearly a third.
Also, the memo admits that nearly half of the children of Wal-Mart's workers either have no health insurance at all or are on Medicaid. And while the company says it will offer a new health plan, it'll require out-of-pocket expenses so high that most of the low-wage workers will be priced out of the action.
To see the memo -- and the real Wal-Mart -- go to & lt;a href="http://walmartwatch.com" & Wal-Mart Watch & lt;/a & .
& lt;i & For more nuggets of wisdom from America's No. 1 populist, check out & lt;a href="http://www.jimhightower.com" & his website & lt;/a & & lt;/i & .