Friday, September 28, 2007

Once more with feeling...

Please don't shop at Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart has been getting some great press lately. At the beginning of the week, newspapers were full of stories about Wal-Mart’s plan to ask its suppliers to measure and reduce their carbon emissions for the benefit of the environment.

Then, on Wednesday, the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman wrote a column promoting Wal-Mart as a role model for the U.S. and Chinese governments’ to follow as they develop policies on global warming.Has Wal-Mart transformed itself from the poster child of bad corporate behavior to an exemplary corporate citizen? Not everyone thinks so.

Just a few days before the articles about Wal-Mart’s suppliers and their carbon emissions were published, thousands of workers who are employed by one of those very suppliers took to the streets in protest. Ten thousand garment workers for the Nassa group, which sells clothes to Wal-Mart and other companies, protested for higher wages and better working conditions on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, even though their government has banned public protests. They earn $25 per month. Is Wal-Mart going to have its suppliers look at the pay and working conditions in their factories at the same time they analyze their carbon emissions? I don’t think so.

Wal-Mart is notorious for continually demanding lower prices from its suppliers, who, in turn, make more outrageous and abusive demands on their workers in order to meet Wal-Mart’s requirements. This year, the Worker Rights Consortium released reports about serious labor violations at the Chong Won Fashion factory in the Philippines and the TOS Dominicana textile factory, both of which produce clothing for Wal-Mart. In September 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wal-Mart supplier sweatshop workers in China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Swaziland. The workers were denied minimum wages, forced to work overtime without compensation, and were denied legally mandated health care.

Other worker rights violations that have been found in foreign factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart include locked bathrooms, starvation wages, pregnancy tests, denial of access to health care, and workers being fired and blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.

The health, safety and well-being of the human beings who work in its factories should be just as important to Wal-Mart as is the company’s impact on the environment.

If you think it's all right to shop at Wal-Mart because you save money that way, do you also think it's all right to steal because that, too, saves you money? Defrauding working people of their just wages is a form of stealing.


  1. There are many things that irk me about Wal-mart. I with I could easily shop elsewhere, and I do try. But in rural areas like my home, Wal-Borg has effectively assimilated or driven competition away.

    More and more though I do my grocery shopping at Kroger, and ply coupons as I find them. Other stuff I try to get elsewhere. It's hard though!

  2. Oops. I meant "I wish ..." Not altogether with it this morning.


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