Monday, March 28, 2005

Wal-Mart: Do the crime, do the time

After three recent rulings against Wal-Mart for violating immigration, labor, and environmental laws, citizens might be forgiven for believing that the federal government is on their side, not Wal-Mart's side.

"Ha ha ha. That's a good one," said a Christian Science Monitor editorial.

Take a closer look at the numbers.

Wal-Mart has $285 billion in sales a year. The average Wal-Mart "associate" takes home an average $250 a week--about $13,000 a year.

Here are some recent fines levied against Wal-Mart, presented alongside the equivalent amount that might be levied against an associate for the respective violation, adjusted proportionally to the earnings of an associate.

Child labor violations:
Wal-Mart fine: $135,540
Associate equivalent: 7 tenths of a cent

Clean water violations:
Wal-Mart fine: $3.1 million
Associate equivalent: 16 cents

Immigration violations:
Wal-Mart fine: $11 million
Associate equivalent: 56 cents

In other recent news, Wal-Mart shut down a store in Quebec rather than let its employees form a union, and in Colorado, a union vote failed after workers were intimidated by Wal-Mart.

Jonathan Tasini argues that the only way to force compliance with the law is jail time for Wal-Mart executives. But more fundamentally, says Tasini, flagrant corporate law-breaking is symptomatic of "a deeper flaw in our system: Once a person walks through the door of the workplace, he or she loses basic rights we all take for granted like liberty and free speech. The only way to stop corporate misconduct against workers is to empower people to shape the conditions at work (mainly by having the real right to unionize), and strip away the power corporations have under our system to create conditions that lead to child labor violations."

A good overview of Wal-Mart's tactics can be found in PBS' Store Wars.


At 3/28/2005 03:22:00 PM, Blogger Samantha said...

Did you catch that CNBC special on Wal-Mart. It was pretty cool.

At 3/28/2005 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

No I did not--I'm afraid I'm not a cable subscriber. PBS is about all the TV I get.


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