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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, August 18, 2004

1,300 Wal-Mart jobs draw 4,500 applicants

By Andrew gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer

John Puha is trying to get ahead in life, and Dewey Daoud got a chance to live in paradise.

Janelle Villaver fills out an application for a cashier job at Wal-Mart while John Puha has his second interview with Wal-Mart assistant manager Fran Nakoa for a position in parking-lot security.

Photos by Andrew Shimabuku • The Honolulu Advertiser

Wal-Mart hiring center
1308 Young Street
Open Monday to Friday,
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sam's Club hiring center
1177 Kapi'olani Blvd.
Open Monday to Saturday
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Both men yesterday were sitting at opposite ends of a plastic folding table in a former Makiki appliance store, playing out their prospects with Wal-Mart, the retailing giant in the middle of a massive hiring binge to staff its first urban Honolulu store.

Puha was one of 4,500 applicants competing for about 1,300 positions at Wal-Mart and its sister retailer, Sam's Club, which are scheduled to open in mid-October on the Ke'eaumoku superblock near Ala Moana Center.

Daoud is a Wal-Mart assistant manager from Texas helping to interview Puha and the steady flow of applicants for the new store where Daoud expects to work for two years or so.

About 780 positions were filled as of yesterday, a little more than half the available jobs at the two stores that, upon opening, will make Wal-Mart Stores Inc. one of Hawai'i's top private employers, with almost 5,000 employees.

As the nation's largest private employer, Wal-Mart has drawn criticism for its hiring and compensation practices.

In June, a federal judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of sex discrimination, clearing the way for 1.6 million current and former female employees to sue the retailer. The plaintiffs allege that women were paid less than men and were not promoted as often.

Wal-Mart has argued that the claims were only the experience of a few isolated individuals.

Nenita Dela Cruz is applying for a job as a cashier, stock clerk or checker. Wal-Mart is the nation's largest private employer.
The Bentonville, Ark., company also has been praised for motivating its workforce and is seen as an opportunity for many like Puha and Daoud.

Pasene Silifaiva from Kalihi is looking for a job as a forklift driver or stocking clerk, and is hoping to make at least $9 an hour. He applied at separate Sam's Club and Wal-Mart hiring centers near the store site. His wife, who drives a school bus, also applied for stocking and cashier positions as a second job.

"These days you got to work two jobs," said Silifaiva, who recently left a job in security.

Wal-Mart's average hourly wage on O'ahu is $10.42, according to company spokeswoman Cynthia Lin. She said about two-thirds of Wal-Mart employees are seniors, students or people seeking a second income.

At the Ke'eaumoku stores, three-quarters of new jobs are full-time. Job openings at Wal-Mart include sales, maintenance and security. At Sam's, job openings include cake decorators, tire technicians, meat cutters, forklift drivers and cashiers.

Most management positions already have been filled by a mix of personnel from Hawai'i and Mainland stores.

Andre Auelua awaits an interview for a job as a cart attendant at the Sam's Club set to open on the Ke'eaumoku superblock. About 4,500 people have applied for 1,300 jobs at Wal-Mart and Sam's.
Wal-Mart anticipates needing 700 to 800 employees, and has hired about 560. Sam's anticipates needing 500 to 600, and has hired about 220.

Lin said the response has been "tremendous" considering Honolulu's low unemployment rate of 3 percent. For the opening of the Pearl City Sam's Club in 1993 — when Honolulu's unemployment rate was 3.1 percent — 2,000 people applied for 225 positions.

At the Sam's hiring center, business manager Sanaa Elnajjar is trying to hold 50 to 100 interviews a day. At the more makeshift Wal-Mart hiring center in the former Chock's Home Appliance & Entertainment Center on Young Street, Daoud was helping process a daily load averaging 23 applicants, who each interview with three managers.

Daoud said he liked the prospects for Puha, a 24-year-old from Hau'ula attending the Kaimuki Community School for Adults to earn his high-school diploma.

"I'm just trying to get ahead in life," said Puha, who applied for parking-lot security and warehouse loading positions.

Daoud said he also liked his own prospects with the company. "I have wanted to come to Hawai'i for a long time," he said. "You live in paradise for two years ... and I have a better chance to advance. It's a good change for me."

Reach Andrew Gomes at agomes@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8065.