Thanksgiving woes for Filipino Wal-Mart worker

A week or two before November 22nd, Celina Vicencio had announced to her family that their turkey dinner would have to wait until after 7 p.m. instead of the traditional noontime repast where her glazed ham is always at the center of a sumptuous Thanksgiving spread.

“I got to go to work,” she announced. Her husband winced and her 10-year-old looked at both his parents wondering with a shrug what the big to-do was about.

For Wal-Mart’s protesting workers and their sympathizers, it’s about being asked to work on a holiday when many Americans, like the Vicencios, would rather be with their extended families. It’s about passing up a yearly tradition spent with her siblings and their children, in exchange for paltry pay: In Celina’s case it’s $9 per hour for three days from November 21st to 23rd — or $276! Her husband could easily make this amount from his restaurant job. But she signed the time sheet signifying she would be coming to work on those days.

“Of course I don’t like it. I couldn’t join my brothers and sisters for Thanksgiving,” she told The FilAm.

The family had its own quiet dinner when Celina got home exhausted from standing for hours and walking aisle to aisle troubleshooting transactions with impatient and nasty customers before Black Friday.

A Wal-Mart employee for about 10 years, Celina was just too glad to get a job when she and her husband arrived in the U.S. Little did she know that working for the world’s biggest retailer would drain the life out of her. Pay is low, conditions are exploitative, and employees suck up to get promoted. “Sobrang sipsipan.”

Celina said she’d been offered a management position but has always turned it down. “Customers would rather deal with white managers,” she said. “If they see that you’re not white, they will just scream at you.”

What usually happens is that some immigrant workers who cannot take the pressure would just resign. “Hindi naman nila kaya.”

Celina is not yet in a position to leave despite the low pay – and an annual incremental wage increase of 40 cents per hour — and the grueling work. She and her husband are amortizing a house, wiring money to families in the Philippines, and sending a son to a private Catholic school.

The East Coast Wal-Mart store where Celina works did not have a protest because it is not unionized. Although she had initialed the time sheet indicating she was coming to work, she was also reminded in the same sheet that she was not being coerced to report for duty.

“Ok lang, at least nakaraos din Thanksgiving namin,” she said.



One Comment

  1. Name * wrote:

    It’s about time to support Wal-Mart workers to have a union for their rights and welfare. Good job Celina! More power to you and your co workers!

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