Walmart employee worried about shootings

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Walmart is the largest retail chain in the world, boasting over 10,500 stores throughout the world and 2.1 million employees. That’s a long way from a small store in Arkansas, the epitome of the American success story.

Yet it seems one of those millions of associates isn’t happy.

You see, she doesn’t feel Walmart does enough to keep her and her coworkers safe.

A gunman killed three children and three staff members at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, last week, reopening the conversation – yet again – around the crisis of gun violence in America. There have been more mass shootings than days in 2023, nearly 140 so far.

With so much tragedy, it has become disturbingly easy for the public to be desensitized and move on with their days. But for retail workers like me, these shootings are a reminder of how dangerous our jobs have become, and increasingly, how little our employers value the lives of the people in their stores – both the customers who shop there and the associates who work there.

I’ve been an associate at Walmart for 22 years now, and something that many don’t realize is just how many gun-involved incidents have taken place at Walmart stores. Look at these headlines:

“Man injured after shooting outside Columbia Walmart”

“Police looking for a man accused of assault at Chandler Walmart”

“Police: Man arrested for terrorizing after pulling gun out in Walker Walmart, sending shoppers into panic”

“East Memphis Walmart shooting: Gunshots fired inside store, suspect fled, police say”

OK, these are real events. I’m not going to pretend that they aren’t. They’re not even El Paso or Chesapeake shootings, just more “garden-variety” violent crimes.

Of course, she then goes into talking about Chesapeake and El Paso right after that, but credit for not just focusing on those things.

She continues, though:

In the wake of these incidents, workers like me feel that Walmart executives, including CEO Doug McMillon, have failed to update store safety policies, to increase security, to listen to workers’ concerns or take any the steps necessary to protect associates – and customers – on the job. Company spokespeople are quick to offer thoughts and prayers – and then it’s on to the next incident. How many more people have to die at Walmart before the company makes real changes?

Every person deserves to be safe at work, and every employer has an obligation to implement reasonable safety measures to protect their employees and in turn, our customers, from harm. This is especially true in public-facing positions that come with obvious risks – exposure to illness, violence, physical and mental stress.

For a company like Walmart, owned by the richest family in the world, the failure to invest in employee safety sends a clear message to associates: For the Waltons, our lives are not assets worth protecting.

The op-ed mostly continues like this for some time. It’s long on recriminations and short on actionable suggestions. The most we see is an effort to get Walmart to review its policies.

However, maybe this 22-year employee should consider that they have and they’ve figured out there’s not really anything more they can do.

While employee safety can and should be important, that has to be balanced against everything else. Walmart cannot turn their stores into fortresses, even if they wanted to.

Further, let’s look at her examples for a moment. Obviously, El Paso and Chesapeake are terrible, but what about the linked stories?

All of them involve members of the public who broke existing laws with their actions. At least two of them didn’t even involve shots being fired. I’m afraid I cannot see how Walmart could craft any policy that would protect employees better.

Unless, of course, the policies in question involved employees being armed. That could make a huge difference as suddenly Walmarts aren’t such easy targets for potential shooters.

Somehow, I don’t think that’s what she has in mind.