What Are Wal-Mart Employees Hoping to Convince Investors?

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In a meeting with sell-side Wall Street analysts, five Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) employees, two of whom have worked for the retailer for more than 20 years, claimed the company’s labor practices are unfair, citing unsafe working conditions and low wages.

While Wall Street is often more concerned with Wal-Mart’s bottom line, the retailer’s employees tried to convince analysts that poor working conditions can lead to poor customer service, and therefore lower sales and profits. While the retailer’s labor practices have drawn criticism among consumers and labor activists for many years, so far none have impacted investors.

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According to Reuters, one employee, a thirteen-year veteran and salaried manager, said her store threw away 2,000 pounds of expired Halloween candy this summer, as the store had been too short-staffed to stock it. A 24-year employee, said worker’s hours were cut at her Wisconsin store and the positions either went unfilled or were filled by a manager.

The meeting was arranged by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, which has urged Wal-Mart workers to speak out about the labor issue through a group of current and former Wal-Mart employees known as OUR Walmart.

In response, a Wal-Mart spokesman told Reuters that labor unions have been trying to organize the companies workers for years.

“It’s important to understand that OUR Walmart is a union-funded, union-backed group that is using a small fraction of the 1.4 million total people that work for us to further their own political and financial agenda,” said the spokesman, Dan Fogleman.

As of yet, Wal-Mart’s 1.4 million U.S. workers are not unionized; a fact that did not go unnoticed by groups opposed to Wal-Mart’s expansion into New York City. However, workers in Elwood, Illinois have been on strike since September 15 to protest what Warehouse Workers for Justice called the “management’s illegal retaliation against workers attempting to present the company their concerns about wage theft, unsafe conditions and discrimination.”

But recent labor disputes have not affected analysts recommendations on the company. Of the 28 analysts whose recommendations are tracked by Thomson One, seven have “Strong Buy” ratings, four have “Buy,” 16 rate the company a “Hold,” and one analyst has an “Underperform” rating on the company’s stock. Wal-Mart shares are up almost 24 percent this year to date, matching a similar rise in its rival Target (NYSE:TGT).

Monday’s conference preceded Wal-Mart’s annual investor meeting, which will take place on October 10.

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