Wal-Mart will soon start scheduling employees based on predicted customer loads, requiring the employees to be more "flexible:"
The move promises more productivity and consumer satisfaction, but could demand more flexibility and availability from workers in place of reliable shifts and predictable pay checks, the Journal reported.
Wal-Mart started using the system for some workers, including cashiers and accounting-office personnel, last year, the paper also reported.
This is an example of software developers forgetting their work sometimes has human consequences. The idea of micro-managing employees through software didn't occur to Wal-Mart just recently; in fact, I worked on a system that would have scheduled call-center employees' potty breaks down to 6-second increments almost 10 years ago. I quit, because I thought the software, however profitable, was immoral.
Perhaps I have an extreme view, but really, I think a company has to believe its employees are no more than cattle to treat them like this. Absolutely companies need software to predict customer loads and marketing approaches, and I'm happy to assist. Scheduling employees to this level of precision just goes too far.
The thing is, the people writing the software, like the people paying for it, would never tolerate that kind of control over their own lives. Tell the CEO of a company that he has to take a potty break between 10:15:06 and 10:15:42 and he might clock you (no pun intended). Make his salary dependent on that kind of intrusion and she'll simply go to another company.
The people affected by this kind of scheduling don't have as many options; that's why they work for Wal-Mart. Once Wal-Mart has crushed all the other businesses in the area, the only thing between the employees and indentured servitude might be the state's anemic minimum-wage laws.
What Wal-Mart is doing is legal, but only possible because twenty years of Republican legislatures and right-wing propaganda have stripped workers of the power they accumulated in the 20th Century. It's the early industrial revolution again, with working people getting shafted in new, high-tech ways.
The huddled masses yearning to breathe free live here now.