Layoffs On Aisle Nine Wal-mart Cuts Part Time Workers, Many Of Them Without Health Insurance

When one of the world’s biggest employers cuts 10 percent of its workforce out of its discount business subsidiary known for selling cheap food in bulk (such a business should be doing pretty o.k. in a down economy, right?), it’s probably not a good sign the job market is on the mend.

In spite of the Federal Reserve and economists’ upbeat appraisal that retailers are leading us out of the economic melt-down, some 12,000 people handed in their white aprons and electric skillets on their way out of Sam’s Club for the last time. Call it very bad timing or a local outsourcing scratch on the back, but in an interview with the Associated Press, Sam’s Club CEO Brian Cornell announced his chain didn’t need his huge army of food demonstrators anymore. The company had decided to sign a contract with a private company near Bentonville, Arkansas (home of the Wal-Mart empire) to handle its in-store food sampling services.

No doubt throwing salt in what he sees as unneeded fat in his organization, those let go were treated to this wonderful quote from their former boss only minutes after they were told to stop clocking in:

“In the club channel, demo sampling events are a very important part of the experience,” said Cornell. “Shopper Events specializes in this area and they can take our sampling program to the next level.”

No matter what “level” he perceived his employees to have been on in the demo sampling hierarchy, they certainly deserved better than that. After all, the bulk of this employee set are older seniors who worked part-time to help supplement whatever retirement income they may have left and others were driven to the job on the promise they’d make full-time status and get from the company. But Wal-Mart has a notorious reputation for stringing along its part-time staff, keeping their hours at just-below-benefits level. Even for the fortunate few who did make it to full-time or management staff, the health insurance plans the company offered weren’t cheap.

Fortunately for the former food demonstrators at Sam’s there are affordable options for individual and group health insurance available on the open market. For them and others, insurance companies are starting to offer short term health insurance that gives seniors, the unemployed and workers in transition access to medical care without much hassle or risk from getting turned down.

Seems ironic that the company known for cutting its everyday low prices for customers jacks up premiums on its group health insurance nearly every year, doesn’t it?