‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Lockdowns In Tennessee
Enlarge this image toggle caption Patrick Semansky/AP Patrick Semansky/AP
As Tennessee is set to ease its most severe coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, the state is offering paid leave, unpaid care leave, and more. Tennessee is the first state in the Southeast to set a paid sick leave policy for its workers.
This leaves one thing for Walmart to work out: how to compensate Tennessee workers, when their job is not only to serve customers but to ensure the safety and security of Walmart’s own.
Last week, a group of eight Tennessee Walmart employees sued the company for $75 million, claiming they took home less pay than they would have earned elsewhere and were forced to work through some of their sick days. A judge ruled the suit could move forward.
But they may still have to worry about what’s coming Wednesday, as Tennessee joins other states like Michigan, Arizona and Mississippi in implementing the most severe restrictions ever put in place in the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
In Tennessee, this means that workers will be allowed to return to work with a flexible schedule and a reduced hours of work.
“My first priority is to care for my kids and my husband,” said Rebecca Sallie, who runs the front cash register at the store in Antioch, Tenn.
A day ago, on Tuesday, that store was completely shuttered. A cashier, who asked that she be identified only by her first name because of the nature of her job, told us it’s a privilege to serve Walmart customers.
“They’re family,” Sallie said. “These people are out there just to help you and they’re waiting. They come in when they’re in need.”
While she works 10 hours a day, her husband takes care of their children, ages eight and 11. The family lives with two dogs, one cat and a small dog.
Sallie says that now that a store is open again, the store is offering both the opportunity to take some unpaid leave and the opportunity to provide paid leave for the couple.
The store didn’t just change its hours. Sallie says they now offer the option to work 40 hours a week and then take a day off for the first week of February. That way, the couple