Byline: Diary Of An Associate
Author: Hugo Meunier
Translated by: Mary Foster
Genre: Non Fiction Adult, Politics
Publisher: Fernwood Publishing
Release Date: 1st March 2019
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In 2012, journalist Hugo Meunier went undercover as a Walmart employee for three months in St. Leonard, Quebec, just north of Montreal.
In great detail, Meunier charts the daily life of an impoverished Walmart worker, referring to his shifts at the box store giant as "somewhere between the army and Walt Disney." Each shift began with a daily chant before bowing to customer demands and the constant pressure to sell. Meanwhile Meunier and his fellow workers could not afford to shop anywhere else but Walmart, further indenturing them to the multi-billion-dollar corporation.
Beyond his time on the shop floor, Meunier documents the extraordinary efforts that Walmart exerts to block unionization campaigns, including their 2005 decision to close their outlet in Jonquiere, QC, where the United Food and Commercial Workers union had successfully gained certification rights. A decade later he charts the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that exposed the dubious legal ground on which Walmart stood in invoking closure and throwing workers out on the street.
In Walmart: Diary of an Associate, Meunier reveals the truths behind Walmart's low prices; it will make you think twice before shopping there.
fancied reading something non-fiction for a change and I came across this book.
Having worked in retail myself for quite a few (lot of) years I love reading
these “tell all” type of books. The front cover depicts a large smiling
face/logo as its main focus. I’m not sure if it is a logo linked to Walmart or
maybe a logo that’s on a name badge or piece of uniform. (I am from the UK so
though we have “Walmart” our stores are called “Asda”)
book is about a journalist called Hugo Meunier and is written from his sole
point of view. Hugo is used to the extremes of journalism such as sneaking into
high class parties, to posing as a homeless man. This sort of job is apparently
referred to as “immersion journalism” Hugo’s latest journalism job is to apply
for and gain employment at Walmart and do a kind of exposé of what it is really
like to work there. This book is set in the St Leonard Walmart Store, which is
in Quebec just north of Montreal.
to begin with Hugo goes into store to enquire about a job and is told to go
home and apply online. Then there’s a telephone interview and then finally an
“in person” interview described as a one to one. For this last part of the
Interview, applicants are told it will take 2 hours! A woman called Caroline
had been brought from headquarters in Toronto to conduct this part of the
Interview. Caroline initially hands them all a name sticker and everyone sits
in a circle. Then a list of questions is handed round but you don’t fill in
your own answers you find out the details of the person next to you and stand
up and introduce them to the rest of the group. I particularly enjoyed the
descriptions of this part of the Interviewing process that Hugo underwent
before being offered a job. The whole group scenario was very familiar as it
was so similar to my own group interview at WHSmiths about 19yrs ago it was
eery! The purpose of the group is to act out scenarios you may come across
within the store. Caroline instructs the group on how you could sell a mobile
phone to an older person by saying it would be ideal to take photos of her
Hugo does go into personal details about those who work with him. Such as the single mum who has to drop her child with a childminder and then rush to get to work on time. The young lads who messed about and got paid as much as the hard working older employees who worked hard every minute whilst at work.
I don't wish to go into detail or mention more specifics of the diary/book as it would reveal too much and be in my opinion too "spoilery".
revelation that left me shocked a little was the active discouragement from having
or being part of a union. The fact a large store such as Walmart did not like
unions and you could actually be in danger of losing your job by talking about
a union never mind forming a union!
immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that though I had enjoyed
reading most of the book it hadn't been as enjoyable as the supermarket
checkout girl one I had read. Maybe because it was set in a different country,
I'm not sure. I expected it to be a brilliantly funny read but it was a more
serious book about a journalist going under cover to get the inside
"dirt" on what it was like to work for Walmart.
sum up the book was neither a funny diary, nor undercover diary/expose. I thought that the book ended a little bit abruptly at
the end...personally I would have liked reactions or quotes from those workers
mentioned/named in the book as to what they thought when Hugo was revealed as
an undercover reporter.