In 2006, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance requiring large retailers to pay workers a "living wage" of $10 an hour, plus benefits. The mayor vetoed the bill. In a few months, Wal-Mart will open a new store in Chicago, with starting pay of $8.75 per hour. Who won? We offer you a new round of true stories from Wal-Mart employees to help you judge.

"I Am Not a Slave"

My senior year of college I went to work for wal mart when the economy was still doing great. I was expecting to land a job in engineering,in which I majored, when I graduated. However, when the economy tanked in early 2008 when I graduated little did I know my five years in hell were only beginning. No constant schedules, sometimes hours were cut, and then the times where I was covering 3 departments at once. Managers do not care one bit. Customers would get irate with me over policies to the point where every time I was going to say no I would just say "let me get a manager" because I knew they were going to side with the customers. After a certain point I stopped caring. I even got in trouble for once changing the name on my name badge to "I Am Not A Slave". The only good thing about working at wal mart was that once I stopped caring and did what I wanted my life was better... Still the worst job in retail ever and I've worked retail in auto parts as well. No one should suffer like that.

From a former employee in South Carolina

I was an employee at Wal-Mart for seven very long years... I ended up working at the jewelry counter, which was better than previous places in the store, but had it's own hazards, such as getting kicked by toddlers and I was punched in the shoulder by a grown man for making his infant daughter (3 months old) cry while piercing her ears. Nothing was done, and I had a bruise on my shoulder for 2 weeks after the incident.

In my 7 years with the company my store went through 8 managers, one was fired for a sexual harassment lawsuit and another one was fired for stealing and embezzlement. Shining examples of authority in what is obviously a cult like dictatorship where if you don't do the "Wal-Mart cheer" like a Stepford wife during meetings you get written up...

Customer's always complain about the service and morale of the store, but with the working conditions of the employees who are paid just enough to keep them toiling, treated less than human by management while being given 2-3 people's work to eek out in a 4-8 hour shift, and not even get all of their legally mandated breaks, what should customer's expect? The spirit of Wal-Mart's finest asset, it's floor associates is broken. Nothing's going to change until Wal-Mart gets it's act together and takes care of the people who serve as the face for the company in stores everywhere. People should have pride in what they do, but when a company beats the pride and spirit out of their people, then you get minimum labor for the pitiful wages they pay for one person taking on three jobs a shift.

The life of a dressing room attendant

While on a restricted work limit I was put in the dressing room. You may or may not know this, but all calls coming into a store are, or at least were at that time, handled by the dressing room attendant. My job was to answer all incoming calls, answer whatever question was asked or transfer that call to whatever department it needed to go to. This was a joke since Wal-Mart policy is to never have an associate in every department all the time. Floor associates are expected to cover their department and a neighboring one as well. For example, the person in lawn and garden was often supposed to cover the toy department as well, a job NO ONE wanted. Or health and beauty was expected to cover pets and live fish. (Seriously, what idiot thought it made sense to stick live fish off in the corner beside the shampoo?) The problem was, when a call came in for toys and was paged over the intercom, the associate in the garden dept. would simply not answer, which meant it would ring back through to me after a minute or two. This could go on indefinitely until a customer finally got fed up enough to just hang up. While this is going on, I was also given a list of truly idiotic "sales" announcements that had to be read over the PA. One particularly stupid on I recall began with me having to say something along the lines of "Yeeha, shoppers!" I don't remember what it was trying to get them to go buy, but it was beyond absurd. I also had to make a periodic pseudo security call, just to try to trick potential shoplifters into thinking security was rushing to the scene. Another piece of equipment I was given was a walkie talkie so that I could also be at the beck and call of all the managers and pass on messages from them. This all may sound tedious but easy - and it was - but on top of handling the phone, which I was repeatedly told was my primary job, I was also expected to deal with all the customers wanting access to the fitting rooms. This meant counting their merchandise to make sure none of them tried to steal it and cleaning up the messes they left behind. Oh, and then there are the returns. People bring back the stuff they bought and when it starts piling up at the service desk, they start calling departments to come get their junk. Floor associates would routinely park entire carts full of softlines merchandise from all departments at the dressing room for the phone operator to sort through and place on hangers. Again, not particularly hard, but a pain in the rear since at least half of the items would have no tag, meaning a matching item had to be found and scanned so a new tag could be printed and attached. I couldn't begin to count the times I was yelled at because I was, shockingly, unable to manage to hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder while jugging half a dozen different active lines, answering manager chatter on the walkie, counting incoming and outgoing items of clothing of customers using the dressing rooms, cleaning out the piles of wadded up clothes those customers left behind, sort half a dozen carts full of returns dumped off by floor associates, and return those clothes to the racks without actually leaving the dressing room because a customer might want to try on clothes or the phone might ring. Can you say contradictory instructions?

Beware of "Union Man"

I worked at Wal Mart in 2003 for a few months. It is by far the worst job I've ever had. I worked overnight stock (Lem Turner, Jacksonville,FL). There was a hilarious training video (that I tried many times to steal) about the evils of unions. The evil "Union Man" was portrayed as creeping up behind otherwise content and peaceful Wal Mart employees with the persona of a child molester...

I saw many long time employees not report injuries for fear of breaking their good standing track record. They had a board in the back room showing off the employees who had gone the longest without getting hurt. It's really just kind of a mind game to guilt people into believing they aren't hurt when they are. There was a lady who had never had an injury, on her 15th anniversary she sprained her wrist but denied any help and asserted she wasn't injured, even though she had it wrapped up the next day. Absolutely would not report to keep that streak going.

Cheating the system

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that Walmart would be a pretty bad place to work at. You get a large amount of customers coming in and out each day. These customers could range from batshit insane to just plain assholes. It's expected that the customers would be a problem, they usually are in any retail job. What's worse is that the people in charge of the store are trying to screw over the employees too.

I've only been working at my store for about a month and the shitty treatment of employees is so apparent. First off, my store is only hiring temps. They say if you do well you'll basically end up becoming permanent. Temps get no insurance, no extra pay on holidays, they can get fired for no good reason. They told us if we even miss a day of work we could get fired. Temps get treated lesser than. Another thing is that everyone is part time. At Walmart you can get pretty close to 40 hours and still be considered part time, instead of working 5 days you basically work 4. Of course there is no over time for anyone. For me the few hours isn't an issue but I've heard a lot of people complain about it. Even department managers have complained, saying they need more hours to pay rent. People's hours change all the time and are never consistent week to week.

The cashier managers probably have it worst because they really have to juggle a lot at once. At any given time there's two cashier managers and that's not enough. The cashier's rely on the managers for a lot and most of the time are left waiting for the manager while the customers in line are getting pissed off. I would say the store needs more employees but they'd probably just cut everybody else's hours if they hired more. The thing is my store is doing terribly in sales, turns out there's too many Walmarts in our area and we're basically competing with ourselves. The people in charge of the store think it's on the associates and cashiers to boost sales somehow. Cashiers are now being checked for their SPH (scans per hour). Basically we have to scan as many products as we can as fast as we can. I don't know if other stores even care about this number but at my store it's pretty important if you're a cashier. The higher the number the better, except what can you do when the store doesn't get that many customers? If you are logged in to a register and not getting scans your number will go down. Everyone cheats this system, finding a way to pause the scanner so that our SPH number won't go down. The managers know about this, they also know if they told everyone to quit cheating the SPH numbers would go down dramatically, so they just let everyone cheat. The employee with the most scans is this guy that's at least 70 years old, not exactly a speed demon.

Sam's Club

I've noticed that all or your stories are about working at a Walmart store. But, working at Sam's club is equally as bad! EQUALLY!!!!

Cashiers at Sam's club have it worse than cashiers at Wal-Mart as they are forced to make people upgrade their memberships. Sam's cashiers go through meetings called One on One's where the supervisor tells you how shitty you are doing. Those who fail to reach appropriate number of upgrades, renewals, etc. are usually yelled at. The worse part — you don't get any commission for convincing Wendy Whorebag to upgrade her membership. Sometimes management favors you with a reward — a McDouble from McDonald's, something that you can afford yourself....oh, that's right you can't afford a McDouble from McDonalds because you work at Sam's Club.

[Photo: Getty]