Sunday, July 30, 2006

Wal-Mart hires PR wiz for new post

Wal-Mart hires PR wiz for new post
Posted on Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Leslie Dach, a top public relations executive who used political savvy and paid bloggers to battle Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ’s critics, will become one of the retailer’s new executives, reporting directly to Chief Executive H. Lee Scott.

The world’s biggest retailer felt the need for a media master after being bombarded by criticism from Washingtonbased WakeUpWal-Mart. com and Wal-MartWatch. com.

Both union-supported groups were founded last year. They criticized Wal-Mart’s treatment of workers, wages and employee health insurance policies. The groups use Web sites, leaked documents and chat rooms to win public support and political influence.

Wal-Mart said Monday that Dach’s title will be executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations. Wal-Mart has 18 other executive vice presidents. Dach’s responsibilities will include overseeing Wal-Mart media and government relations and the Wal-Mart Foundation, the largest corporate foundation in the United States.

“This is a new job; we have never had an executive vice president over corporate affairs or anyone in corporate affairs reporting directly to Lee Scott,” Wal-Mart spokesman Sarah Clark said.

Wal-Mart has responded to critics by introducing catastrophic health insurance costing workers as little as $ 11 per month. Scott also announced an environmental initiative to make Wal-Mart greener and cleaner. Dach helped orchestrate media coverage of both.

Dach, 52, will begin his job in late August and comes armed with powerful political contacts.

He is the former communications director of the Dukakis for President Committee and worked on both of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns. While working for Edelman, a global public relations firm, he helped the Democrats craft a response to the Republican convention in 2004. At Edelman, Dach worked with a man who helped shape President Ronald Reagan’s image and message, Michael Deaver.

“Leslie has been a part of our transformation over the last year,” Scott said in a statement. “He brings new perspective, diverse talents and tremendous expertise to his role as a member of our strategic and executive teams. I look forward to his continued involvement as we transform our business for the future.”

In Wal-Mart’s Bentonville headquarters, Dach created a war room of public relations tacticians charged with combating Wal-Mart’s cyber-savvy critics. The war room monitored what critics were saying and countered with their own press releases.

Dach was criticized for recruiting bloggers such as Mike Krempasky, co-founder of Red-State. com. Krempasky’s political blog site savaged many Democrats and wrongly claimed former U. S. Sen. Max Cleland, DGa., a Silver Star winner who lost three limbs in the Vietnam War, was not a war hero.

“We have many voices among our bloggers, bipartisan voices across the political spectrum,” Dach said Monday by phone from Washington.

When asked what he felt was the most successful element of his Wal-Mart media campaign, Dach cited Wal-Mart’s work with nongovernmental organizations and policymakers to find solutions to health-care and environmental crises as having the biggest impact on public opinion.

Dach serves on the National Audubon Society’s board of directors. His team worked on press coverage of former Vice President Al Gore’s visit to Wal-Mart’s headquarters this month. Gore showed his global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and spoke to the audience.

“I’m always looking at ways retailers get their message to consumers,” Dach said. “I think retailers will start using mobile instruments, cell phones, as a new way to reach out.”

Dach declined to say whether his new job will prompt a restructuring of Wal-Mart’s public relations staff members, known as the reputation management department.

“Today’s announcement isn’t surprising, given the huge amount of time and money Wal-Mart spends on Edelman damage control,” Wal-Mart Watch spokesman Nu Wexler said. “Their choice of yet another public relations executive to head up a major department makes us question the true intentions of Wal-Mart’s purported transformation.”

Clinton White House Chief of Staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty III has a rosier view. His Washington firm, Kissinger McLarty Associates, briefs Wal-Mart about political and economic conditions in nations where Wal-Mart operates. McLarty, who still has a house in Little Rock, hosted a dinner in his Washington home last July for Scott and some prominent Democrats. Scott assured the guests that Wal-Mart is not a partisan GOP corporation.

“There were no current office holders at the dinner so we didn’t have the dynamic of an office holder dealing with pending legislation,” McLarty said.

He said guests were impressed by Wal-Mart’s job creation and record of promoting leaders from the ranks of clerks. McLarty sees similarities between Wal-Mart’s lower-income core customers and voters comprising the Democratic base.

“Leslie [Dach ] is a man of integrity who reaches across party lines,” McLarty said. “He can make sure everyone’s on the same team even if they’re marching to different drummers.”

Democratic strategist and Washington public relations firm owner Tony Podesta worked with Dach on several political campaigns. He believes Wal-Mart will offer Dach a new form of political clout.

“I was shocked he’s leaving Edelman because he had exciting work there,” Podesta said. “But Wal-Mart is not an arm of the Republican National Committee. Probably more Democrats than Republicans work for Wal-Mart. Democrats should be thrilled Leslie is in Wal-Mart’s halls as Lee Scott’s counselor.”

Copyright © 2001-2006 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Boy killed by falling mirror in Wal-Mart

Monday, July 24, 2006 9:32 AM CDT
Boy killed by falling mirror in Wal-Mart
By Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- A mirror at a store fell on a 3-year-old boy, killing him, officials said.

Christopher Antonio was apparently playing near the 5-foot-tall floor-mounted mirror in the children's section of a Wal-Mart when it fell Saturday.

The toddler was likely killed by the blunt force of the crash, said Marion County Sheriff's Lt. Michael DeHart.

"The mother was approximately 5 feet away from the child when she heard a loud crash," DeHart said. The boy's 5-year-old sister was also at the store, deputies said.

His mother and another shopper pulled the mirror off the boy, DeHart said.

Wal-Mart was cooperating with investigators, said Jolanda Stewart, spokeswoman for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the matter is under investigation," she said.

Copyright © 2006, Pantagraph Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Wal-Mart Tries to Be MySpace. Seriously

Wal-Mart Tries to Be MySpace. Seriously
Retailer's 'Social' Site May Be too Unhip and Strict to Catch Teen-Apparel Dollars
By Mya Frazier
Published: July 17, 2006

COLUMBUS, Ohio ( -- It's a quasi-social-networking site for teens designed to allow them to "express their individuality," yet it screens all content, tells parents their kids have joined and forbids users to e-mail one another. Oh, and it calls users "hubsters" -- a twist on hipsters that proves just how painfully uncool it is to try to be cool.

Desperate to appeal to teens with something other than pencils and backpacks during the crucial back-to-school season, Wal-Mart is launching a highly sanitized, controlled and rather unhip site at Teens are invited to create their own page, "show it to the world and win some fab prizes," including a chance to have their videos appear in a Wal-Mart TV commercial. Wal-Mart's agency is GSD&M, Austin, Texas.

The opening page shows video of four teens -- a bubbly fashionista, a Texas football player, a quirky skateboarder and an aspiring R&B singer from New York -- who are clearly actors reading a script, although the videos are positioned to appear authentic. Within, there are pages such as "Beth's Backyard Club," where you find a picture of her in a strapless prom dress above the approved quote: "I'll school my way by looking hot in my Wal-Mart clothes to school to catch a cute boy's eye. ..."

'Are these real kids?'

The site is an attempt at closing the trend gap Wal-Mart now faces as Target wins more teen-apparel dollars. But if Wal-Mart thought it could win over Amy Kandel, 14, of Columbus, Ohio, it was wrong. "Some of the kids looked like they were trying to be supercool, but they weren't at all, and they were just being kind of weird," she said. "Are these real kids?"

Nor did it impress Pete Hughes, 18. "It just seemed kind of corny to me," he said.

Wal-Mart declined to comment.

No doubt leery of all the problems with, Wal-Mart's site disqualifies any video with "materials that are profane, disruptive, unlawful, harmful, threatening, abusive, vulgar, obscene, hateful, or racially or ethnically-motivated, or otherwise objectionable." That's why "pending approval" notes dominate pages already created and content is limited to a headline, a fashion quiz and a favorite song. Wal-Mart also plans to e-mail the parents of every registered teen, giving them the discretion to pull a submission.

Moreover, the retailer reserves the right to edit the commercial created with the winning video, obviously hoping to avoid the fate of Chevrolet's Tahoe, which allowed consumers to create their own video spots unchecked and ended up with some unflattering results.

Don't expect a subversive, ironic ad
So a subversive, ironic ad by a savvy teen on how her dad's hardware shop closed down after the retail goliath rolled into town would likely be "otherwise objectionable" to Wal-Mart.

The tight controls will work against Wal-Mart's goal to make the site more edgy and will instead cement the retailer's image as a conformist brand, said Tim Stock, a researcher with New York-based Scenario DNA, a research firm devoted to studying Gen Y.

"The second you try to create boundaries and draw a line around content and put a box around content, it becomes something else. Teens aren't searching for what a company deems relevant, but what they deem relevant," Mr. Stock said. "You can't own it. When anyone tries to own it too much, then it becomes a problem. That's the impression I get on this site."

A lot at stake

And there's a lot at stake here. "Wal-Mart really needs this to work," said Irma Zandl of youth-marketing firm Zandl Group. "Over the last year, we have been getting increasingly bad feedback from teen girls about Wal-Mart in contrast to Target -- especially Wal-Mart's apparent lack of cleanliness, messy layout and lack of stylish attire. This attempt at 'we media' is terrific. We'll have to wait and see if it's enough to overcome in-store issues."

But it won't change the shopping habits of Molly Morgan, 14, who goes to Wal-Mart only when her mom does to buy groceries and spends her monthly $150 clothing budget at Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Nordstrom.

The Columbus teen doubts she'll submit a video or enter the contests because "it, like, takes a lot of time, and it's not very likely you'll win."

Copyright © 1992-2006 Crain Communications

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Judge Overturns Wal-Mart Health Care Law

Jul 19, 6:20 PM EDT
Judge Overturns Wal-Mart Health Care Law
Associated Press Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A first-of-its-kind state law that would have required Wal-Mart to spend more on employee health care in Maryland is invalid under federal law, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The state law would have required non-governmental employers with 10,000 or more workers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll on health care or pay the difference in taxes. The measure was aimed at Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has been under attack by critics who say that its inadequate health care offering is forcing some employees to use state-funded plans.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz decided that the Maryland Fair Share Health Care Fund Act would have hurt Wal-Mart by requiring it to track and allocate benefits for its Maryland employees in a different way from how it keeps track of employee benefits in other states. Motz wrote that the law "imposes legally cognizable injury upon Wal-Mart."

Motz cited the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which he said pre-empts "any and all state laws insofar as they may now or hereafter relate to any employee benefit plan."

"My finding that the act is pre-empted is in accordance with long established Supreme Court law that state laws which impose health or welfare mandates on employers are invalid under ERISA," Motz wrote in his 32-page opinion.

Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott said the ruling meant businesses would not have to contend with different standards in different states for health coverage.

"The thing that we find encouraging is that there is going to be consistency, that the federal government is going to be the control point on health insurance and these kinds of issues, so that commerce itself, businesses, will be able to have one set of standards that they work against," Scott said during an appearance on the Rev. Al Sharpton's syndicated radio show.

Kevin Enright, a spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office, said the state would appeal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

Enright said the state disagreed with Motz on several counts, particularly in finding that the law is pre-empted by ERISA.

"Supreme Court precedent makes it clear that this law does not impermissibly impact health benefit plans," Enright said. "Employers may choose to pay the tax or avoid paying the tax in several ways."

In Maryland, where state budget writers were looking for ways to rein in a $4.6 billion annual Medicaid tab, the Wal-Mart law was seen as a way to encourage companies to keep employees off public rolls. It became law last winter when the Democratic legislature overrode a 2005 veto by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association, of which Wal-Mart is a member, filed the lawsuit in February to contest the legislation. The Arlington, Va.-based group contended the law unfairly targeted the world's largest retailer.

RILA President Sandy Kennedy said the ruling sent a message that employer health plans are governed by federal law and "not a patchwork of state and local laws."

"It also is a clear message that similar bills under consideration in other states and municipalities violate federal law as well," Kennedy said.

Other states have considered bills similar to Maryland's law, although no other state has adopted one.

Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch, one of Wal-Mart's most vocal union-funded critics, said the ruling doesn't change the fact that Wal-Mart's health care plan is "unaffordable and inaccessible for its employees."

"Until large employers and the federal government take action, other states will continue to seek individual solutions to the health care crises plaguing their states," Wexler said.

Wal-Mart has 53 stores and two distribution centers in Maryland and employs nearly 16,000 people in the state.

State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said the law was necessary.

"What's happening in Maryland is that all citizens of the state are subsidizing Wal-Mart because we are paying for their employees when they show up at emergency rooms at hospitals," he said.

Motz pointed out that lawyers for the state had argued that the Maryland law amounted to a "payroll tax" and therefore was outside federal jurisdiction. However, the judge said the purpose of the law clearly was not to raise revenue for the state.

"To the contrary, its purpose was to force Wal-Mart to increase the level of its health care benefits," Motz wrote.

Without the court's intervention, the law would have taken effect in January.

Lawyers for the state argued that Wal-Mart was free to pay a penalty - estimated at $6 million a year - instead of providing better benefits. State lawyers also argued that as another alternative, the retailer could have set up clinics for its employees. Motz rejected both arguments, saying no company would make those choices rather than increase health care for its workers.

Motz owned Wal-Mart stock when the case, with RILA as the sole plaintiff, was randomly assigned to him. He said Wednesday in an interview that he sold the shares as soon as he realized Wal-Mart was involved.

"As soon as someone brought it to my attention, I immediately sold the stock," Motz said.


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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Wal-Mart Denies Putting Workers in Danger

Wal-Mart Denies Putting Workers in Danger
Associated Press
Tuesday, July, 11 2006

MONTREAL -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was only helping police and not endangering employees when it asked them to search for a possible bomb at one of the chain's stores, a company spokesman said Tuesday.

The manager of the St-Jean-sur-Richelieu outlet was alerted to a bomb threat last Thursday, said Yanik Deschenes, who confirmed that 40 sales clerks were asked to help find the device.

One young employee, who was apparently shaken by the incident, told her mother about it later. She complained to the store manager and the media.

Deschenes insisted nobody was forced to search the store about 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of Montreal.

"We will never put in jeopardy the security of our employees," he said in a telephone interview.

"Never, never, never (will) we force them to do such kinds of investigations. If this associate had said or all the associates had said 'We don't want to participate,' there would be no problem. They would have been able to leave the building without hesitation."

Deschenes said police told the manager the threatening call had been made to 911 from a pay phone outside the store. Deschenes would not speculate on motives but said the store is not having any labor trouble.

Police ordered customers out but then told employees to look for any suspicious packages. Police said they would take over if any devices were found.

Deschenes said the manager asked the police officer -- one of five present -- if he was sure he wanted employees to do the search.

"They thought this was the right procedure to do and we trust them," Deschenes said. "Our procedure is very clear, to collaborate with the police officer all the time so that's what we did."

Nothing was found in the search.

Police are still investigating the incident, as is the Quebec workplace health and safety board.

Police said the store didn't violate any laws and only had an obligation to evacuate the store if a suspicious object was found.

© 2005 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
This site is in no way connected with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or any affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Wal-Mart refuses to chip in for fire truck

Wal-Mart refuses to chip in for fire truck
By Chris Young - TC Palm
Friday, July, 7 2006

PORT ST. LUCIE — Wal-Mart has refused to pay for a new ladder truck as one of the conditions it must satisfy to build its SuperCenter at Gatlin Commons, fire officials said.

St. Lucie County Fire District officials said the specialized truck is needed to properly cover all areas of the 207,000-square-foot building in a fire, but Wal-Mart attorney Susan Motley argued in a letter the building has "an abundance" of sprinklers and built-in safety measures that exceed National Fire Protection Association standards.

But if it doesn't get money for a new truck, the district doesn't have to approve the building's certificate of occupancy, Battalion Chief Buddy Emerson wrote in a letter to the city.

The district also asked the city on Monday for help persuading Wal-Mart to follow through on its end of the deal.

The Wal-Mart SuperCenter is the largest business planned for Gatlin Commons, a 400,000-square-foot commercial project on Gatlin and Rosser boulevards, which also will include a 134,000-square-foot Sam's Club and other retailers and restaurants.

As a condition of plan approval, Wal-Mart agreed to provide evidence that the Fire District could provide aerial service to the project, Emerson wrote. But the district didn't specify a ladder truck because Wal-Mart agreed to meet the district's needs at the Site Plan Review meeting, he continued.

Although there is no ordinance requiring developers to pay for ladder trucks, the district's requirement was consistent with the city's planning process, wrote Emerson, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Wal-Mart officials maintained their stance.

"We should be able to move forward because we met the (fire) standards," said Eric Brewer, spokesman for Wal-Mart. "Our current position is we don't feel the contribution is needed by law."

He said the requested contribution was $900,000.

Councilman Christopher Cooper, a firefighter in Palm Beach County, said Wal-Mart should pay for at least part of a new ladder truck.

"I think it's a justified fee for a new business which is impacting the level of service from the norm," he said.

Wal-Mart is not the first company to face requirements for new fire equipment. The district has gotten money for half a ladder truck — $350,000 — from The Ginn Co. in March as a precondition for allowing high-rise buildings at Tesoro.

Developer Wayne Huizenga is contributing the other $350,000 for the truck.


• Wal-Mart, which is building a SuperCenter at Gatlin and Rosser boulevards, might not get final approval of the project from the St. Lucie County Fire District.

• The district says it can't adequately protect the large building without a new ladder truck and asked Wal-Mart to buy it.

• Wal-Mart has refused, saying it has enough fire protection in the building.

© 2005 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
This site is in no way connected with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or any affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wal-Mart applauds B.C. ruling

Wal-Mart applauds B.C. ruling
Canadian Press

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Wal-Mart Canada said Tuesday that a B.C. Labour Relations Board ruling has thwarted a union's effort to organize the auto department of a Cranbrook, B.C. store as a separate unit from the rest of the outlet.

Brent Mullan, the chair of Labour Relations Board, ruled that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union's attempt to separate 10 workers in the store's Tire Lube Express department was not permissible under B.C. law.

Wal-Mart said it plans to use the ruling to stop a similar union drive in Surrey, B.C.

”Wal-Mart Canada believes that the carving out of a very small group of select workers from the total team of associates in a store for the purpose of unionization is unrepresentative and undemocratic,” the company said in a release.

The U.S.-based retailer, the world's largest company, has been embroiled in union conflicts across Canada in recent years.

A store in Saguenay, Que was the first Wal-Mart outlet in North America to organize a successful union drive.

The retailer closed the store, citing financial reasons, before a collective agreement with the union could be reached.

Wal-Mart is the world's biggest retailer with more than 4,000 stores. In Canada, the company operates about 268 stores and employs more than 70,000 people.

© Copyright 2006 Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved. and The Globe and Mail are divisions of Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc., 444 Front St. W., Toronto, Canada M5V 2S9
Phillip Crawley, Publisher

Monday, July 17, 2006

Some Leeway for the Small Shoplifter

July 13, 2006
Some Leeway for the Small Shoplifter

Wal-Mart refuses to carry smutty magazines. It will not sell compact discs with obscene lyrics. And when it catches customers shoplifting — even a pair of socks or a pack of cigarettes — it prosecutes them.

But now, in a rare display of limited permissiveness, Wal-Mart is letting thieves off the hook — at least in cases involving $25 or less.

According to internal documents, the company, the nation’s largest retailer and leading destination for shoplifting, will no longer prosecute first-time thieves unless they are between 18 and 65 and steal merchandise worth at least $25, putting the chain in line with the policies of many other retailers.

Under the new policy, a shoplifter caught trying to swipe, say, a DVD of the movie “Basic Instinct 2” ($16.87) would receive a warning, but one caught walking out of the store with “E.R. — The Complete Fifth Season” ($32.87) would face arrest.

Wal-Mart said the change would allow it to focus on theft by professional shoplifters and its own employees, who together steal the bulk of merchandise from the chain every year, rather than the teenager who occasionally takes a candy bar from the checkout counter.

It may also serve to placate small-town police departments across the country who have protested what the company has called its zero-tolerance policy on shoplifting. Employees summoned officers whether a customer stole a $5 toy or a $5,000 television set — anything over $3, the company said.

At some of the chain’s giant 24-hour stores, the police make up to six arrests a day prompting a handful of departments to hire an additional officer just to deal with the extra workload.

“I had one guy tied up at Wal-Mart every day,” said Don Zofchak, chief of police in South Strabane Township, Pa., which has 9,000 residents and 16 officers. He said the higher threshold for prosecution “would help every community to deal with this.”

J. P. Suarez, who is in charge of asset protection at Wal-Mart, said it was no longer efficient to prosecute petty shoplifters. “If I have somebody being paid $12 an hour processing a $5 theft, I have just lost money,” he said. “I have also lost the time to catch somebody stealing $100 or an organized group stealing $3,000.”

The changes in Wal-Mart’s theft policy are described in 30 pages of documents that were provided to The New York Times by, a group backed by unions that have tried to organize Wal-Mart workers in the United States.

The group said it received the document from a former employee at the chain who is unhappy with the new policy.

In interviews, several current and former Wal-Mart employees said the new shoplifting policy undermines their work and would, over time, encourage more shoplifting at the chain.

But Wal-Mart said it would closely track shoplifters it did not have arrested, and would ask that they be prosecuted after a second incident. (Under the new policy, it will also seek the prosecution of all suspected shoplifters who threaten violence or fail to produce identification, no matter how much they are trying to steal. Not carrying identification is a popular tactic among professional shoplifters to avoid arrest.)

“There is not a lot of margin for success for those intent on making a living stealing from us,” Mr. Suarez said. “We will put them in jail just as we always have.”

Still, the new policy, which became effective in March, is in many ways a striking departure from Wal-Mart traditions. In the past, the company has proudly defended its aggressive prosecution of shoplifters, saying it helps hold down prices.

“Other retailers might offset the cost of shoplifting with higher prices,” a spokeswoman said in a 2004 interview. “But we don’t do that.”

Indeed, Wal-Mart’s zero-tolerance policy can be traced to its founder, Sam Walton, who tied employee bonuses to low theft rates at stores. Stolen merchandise, he wrote in his autobiography published in 1992, the year he died, “is one of the biggest enemies of profitability in the retail business.”

Over all, American retailers lose more than $30 billion a year to theft, according to the National Retail Federation, a trade group.

In the book, “Sam Walton: Made in America,” Mr. Walton boasted that the amount of merchandise lost to theft at Wal-Mart was half that of the retailing industry’s average.

With the new policy, though, employees “are confused,” said a former Wal-Mart employee who worked in the loss prevention department at a store outside San Jose, Calif..

“They want to stop shoplifters,” she said. “They want to do what they are trained to do.”

But if the shoplifter is under 18 or steals less than $25 worth of products, “they can’t do anything,” said the former employee, who left the company shortly after the new shoplifting policy was put into effect and spoke on condition of anonymity because she said she feared retribution.

Chris Kofinis, director of communications at, said the policy “is a head-in-the-sand strategy that is far different than what Sam Walton would ever have wanted, and it’s not clear this is the best strategy for Wal-Mart workers.”

Mr. Suarez, the Wal-Mart executive, said there was “overwhelming” employee support for the new policy because it would more effectively deter theft.

Wal-Mart is not alone in giving shoplifters some leeway. Its new policy “is consistent with guidelines many retailers use,” said Joseph J. LaRocca, vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation.

Retailers, he said, have learned that prosecuting small shoplifting cases “does not warrant the store resources or the judicial resources required, given the dollar amount that was stolen.”

In some cases, loss prevention executives said, retailers will prosecute only shoplifters who steal at least $50 or $100 worth of merchandise. The legal costs required for prosecution, they said, are simply too high. Stores must hire a lawyer for employees who become witnesses in a trial, for example, and pay workers overtime to appear in court.

Until now, they said, Wal-Mart was the exception. “They would arrest somebody for stealing a pair of socks,” said Chief Zofchak in South Strabane Township. “I felt we were spending an inordinate amount of time just dealing with Wal-Mart.”

Since Wal-Mart enforced its new shoplifting policy, arrests have fallen at the store in Harrisville, Utah, according to authorities there. But the town’s chief of police, Maxwell Jackson, still prefers the original zero-tolerance rule.

“Once the word goes out that there is a dollar limit,” he said, “there will be more stealing.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Saturday, July 15, 2006

What a steal - Wal-Mart accused of rolling back employees’ earned pay

What a steal - Wal-Mart accused of rolling back employees’ earned pay
By Casey Ross - Boston Herald
Sunday, July, 2 2006

Wal-Mart violated state law more than 1 million times by skimping on work breaks and pay owed to thousands of former employees, says a lawyer representing Massachusetts plaintiffs in one of the state’s largest-ever class-action lawsuits.
The volume of claims in the long-running suit against the megaretailer has expanded dramtically in recent months, even as lawyers for Wal-Mart pursue motions to torpedo the case by challenging its class-action status.

Documents filed in Middlesex Superior Court last week by an attorney representing Wal-Mart employees charge the company is trying to “extinguish the claims” of Bay State plaintiffs who were shorted pay in “well over one million” instances.

“All these people depended on their paychecks to live day to day,” said attorney Robert Bonsignore, who represents Wal-Mart employees. “They were chiseled out of pennies compared to Wal-Mart’s billions.”

Wal-Mart declined to address the allegations in the case, saying, “It is disrespectful to the court to comment on matters that will be heard in a legal proceeding. . . . we’re not going to comment.”

The Massachusetts suit is one of 70 some lawsuits Wal-Mart is facing nationwide, with employees from Oregon to Arkansas alleging the company deprived them of full pay for regular and overtime hours, and in some cases deliberately manipulated time sheets.

Officials with state Attorney General Tom Reilly’s office say they are closely monitoring the Massachusetts case and are seeking access to evidence gathered in the suit that would allow the state to pursue its own legal case.

Bonsignore, who has worked with a California firm that won a $172 million verdict against Wal-Mart last year, is also the lead attorney on a 22-state federal lawsuit alleging systematic wage and hour violations by the company.

Among his clients is a disabled woman from Chelmsford who has accused Wal-Mart of changing her time sheet to show she worked only one minute on days she worked eight-hour shifts. “When I went to to complain, my manager just told me (my paycheck) was right, that there wasn’t a problem,” said Kelly Thompson, 32, who worked as a greeter for about a year before being terminated. “But they would never open up the books to show me. They just insisted.”

Thompson, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said she was shocked when her lawyers showed her a computer analysis alleging that Wal-Mart routinely denied her pay for the hours she worked. “I feel like I was ripped off,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they would actually do this to someone.”

A Wal-Mart official declined an opportunity to respond to Thompson’s allegations. The Massachusetts case against the company is scheduled to go to trial in October.

© 2005 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
This site is in no way connected with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or any affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Wal-Mart discusses global warming steps

Wal-Mart discusses global warming steps
By MARCUS KABEL, Associated Press Writer
Wed Jul 12, 2:47 PM ET

BENTONVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the biggest private user of electricity in the world and has huge potential to cut back on greenhouse gases in-house and among its 60,000 suppliers, company officials said ahead of a global warming information stop Wednesday by former vice president Al Gore.

Wal-Mart working groups on environmental change were meeting ahead of Gore's visit to discuss steps already taken and new efforts ahead under a green initiative launched last October by Chief Executive Lee Scott to make the often-criticized company a better environmental citizen.

The world's largest retailer emitted the equivalent of 20.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide last year, the main greenhouse gas, while the best estimate for its supply chain — all the production and shipping needed to fill Wal-Mart shelves — is 10 times that, said Jim Stanway, director of project development in Wal-Mart's energy department.

"We're big, but we're certainly not the biggest," Stanway said. Coca-Cola Co. produces about 5 million metric tons a year while utility American Electric Power emits about 160 million metric tons, he added.

Wal-Mart disclosed its CO2 figure for the first time this year.

Scientists have become increasingly concerned in recent years about the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. Average worldwide temperatures have risen this century as a result of what many believe is a greenhouse effect from that pollution.

Stanway and other executives said Wal-Mart's potential to slow global warming stemmed from the size of its supplier network and the influence Wal-Mart can wield to encourage better practices by those companies it buys from.

"We have made it clear that all things being equal, we'll give business to operators who show they're fully engaged" in fuel efficiency efforts, said Tim Yatsko, Wal-Mart senior vice president of transportation.

Before a presentation from Gore on his anti-global warming campaign, executives from 14 so-called sustainable value networks traded ideas, with each group consisting of Wal-Mart people, suppliers and outside experts to work on specific issues like alternative fuels, textiles and logistics.

Charles Zimmerman, in charge of developing new Wal-Mart stores, said the company was already reducing energy demand by installing more efficient lighting and retrofitting refrigerators.

New store prototypes in the works will use design and technology to be 30 percent more efficient than today's stores and in the longer term even 50 percent more efficient.

"We are the number one private purchaser of electricity in the United States and therefore in the world," Zimmerman said.

In logistics, covering Wal-Mart's fleet of 7,000 trucks, Tim Yatsko said the company had already cut fuel use by 8 percent by putting alternative power units in rigs this year so they can stop idling engines during loading or breaks. That saved $25 million in fuel bills and cut 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Lee Scott plans to make the retailer a leader in cutting emissions, energy use and solid waste and selling more environmentally friendly products. Scott took the environmental offensive at a time when Wal-Mart is under attack from organized labor and other groups for its business practices, including employee pay and health benefits.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

China to pursue Wal-Mart and other foreign firms over staff unions - report

AFX News Limited
China to pursue Wal-Mart and other foreign firms over staff unions - report
07.06.2006, 03:21 AM

- BEIJING (XFN-ASIA) - Lawmakers in China are planning to take action against US retailing giant Wal-Mart and other foreign firms to force them to allow their staff to join a union, state press said.

Legislators are planning to change the law to force foreign-funded enterprises to establish branches of the Communist Party-run All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) within their companies, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Wang Zhaoguo, ACFTU president and vice chairman of the National People's Congress, China's legislature, specifically cited Wal-Mart for failing to set up branches in its China stores.

'We started to push Wal-Mart to set up union branches two years ago, yet there is not a single one built (set up) so far,' Xinhua quoted Wang as saying.

'We will continue working on this.'

Wal-Mart has not established union branches because none of its employees has requested they be set up, as required in the law on trade unions, the report said.

'Many foreign companies, including Wal-Mart, have been taking advantage of this stipulation to obstruct the setting up of a union,' Xinhua said.

The dispute has been a long-running one and Wal-Mart said in 2004 that it would allow its staff to join unions while insisting then it had not broken any laws.

Wal-Mart spokespeople were not immediately available to comment.

According to China's trade union law, all employees have the right to join ACFTU, the country's only legal trade union.

However joining the union offers no guarantee for staff against exploitation, with the ACFTU often criticized by international labor rights groups for favoring business interests over workers' rights.

The nation's trade union law outlaws workers from forming independent unions or organizing collective bargaining activities outside the ACFTU.

Neither the Subscriber nor AFX News warrants the completeness or accuracy of the Service or the suitability of the Service as a trading aid and neither accepts any liability for losses howsoever incurred. The content on this site, including news, quotes, data and other information, is provided by AFX News and its third party content providers for your personal information only, and neither AFX News nor its third party content providers shall be liable for any errors, inaccuracies or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

ASDA settlement may signal shift in Wal-Mart union policy

ASDA settlement may signal shift in Wal-Mart union policy
By Heather Timmons
International Herald Tribune - 29 June 2006

Wal-Mart's British arm, ASDA, which accounts for a tenth of the American retailer's total sales, narrowly averted a costly strike Thursday, after working out an agreement with a local union. The deal was seen as a sign that the company is softening toward organized labor.

The agreement is "exactly what the union demanded," said Jan Furstenborg, the commercial director of Union Network International, a global group with 900 union members that has been pushing Wal-Mart to negotiate with unions. "This means the company must begin to realize that they can't ignore the will of their employees to join and be represented by trade unions," Furstenborg said.

Employees at ASDA's distribution centers were threatening a five-day strike during what is expected to be one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year. England plays Portugal in the World Cup on Saturday, and ASDA estimates it will sell 10 million bottles of beer on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning in preparation for the game.

The agreement establishes nationwide collective bargaining for distribution center employees. In the past, the union representing these employees generally negotiated with ASDA on a center-by-center basis.

Unions will have input on issues from wages to technology used in the centers, and unions will be able to recruit new members on the job.

Next, the union plans to turn to employees in ASDA's retail stores, and hopes to establish a national collective bargaining agreement there.

"This is a very different ethos and approach" than Wal-Mart has in the United States, said Paul Kenny, the acting general secretary of the GMB, the union that did the negotiating.

The agreement represents a shift in ASDA's approach to unions, he said. "There had been a philosophy of excluding employees from meaningful discussions about the basics," Kenny said. "The company has realized that the system needs to change."

ASDA was fined 850,000pounds, or 1.5million dollars, in February, after a British employment tribunal found that it was offering employees at one distribution depot pay raises to give up their rights to collective bargaining, which is illegal in Britain.

ASDA focused Thursday on the positive. "We're pleased to have signed an agreement acceptable to both sides to end the current dispute - good news for our customers and colleagues alike," said David Cheesewright, ASDA's chief operating officer. He noted that the company expected to serve 24 customers every second on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. "A crack team of footy-filling shelf stackers is on hand throughout the weekend to restock our stores as quickly as customers try to empty the shelves," he said.

Wal-Mart bought ASDA in 1999. Unlike its U.S. parent, ASDA has a decades-long relationship with local unions, and about a third of its distribution center employees are members of a union.

ASDA is Britain's No.2 retailer behind Tesco, another superstore that sells everything from groceries to clothing.

Competition is fierce in Britain's retail market, and ASDA is struggling against rivals who have figured out how to target customers who are interested in more than just low prices, analysts say. Tesco has 31.4 percent of Britain's grocery market, while ASDA has 16.5 percent, according to the research firm TNS.

Wal-Mart's ownership of ASDA has not always gone smoothly, and there has been a lot of turnover in top management positions. Analysts said that stemmed from innate differences between the two companies.

"When you juxtapose the Wal-Mart, small-town America, southern states culture with the British slightly self-deprecating, slightly cynical, slightly skeptical culture, they're uncomfortable bedfellows," said Richard Hyman, an analyst at Verdict Research, which focuses on retailing.

In the North America, Wal-Mart, which had net sales for the year ended Jan 31 of 312.4 billion dollars, has long been known for its aggressive approach to fighting unions. When employees at an outlet in Canada voted last year to unionize, the retailer shut the store down, contending that it was unprofitable. In 2000, shortly after 11 Wal-Mart meat cutters in Texas voted to form a union, the company eliminated meat-cutter jobs companywide and announced that it would use prepackaged meat instead.

The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has filed dozens of complaints against Wal-Mart for using hardball tactics to fight unions, like improperly firing union supporters and threatening to deny bonuses to management if workers unionized.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Wal-Mart fights to keep the smiley face

Wal-Mart fights to keep the smiley face
Retail giant says symbol personifies its price-reducing policy, but London-based firm says it secured rights years ago.
July 5 2006: 7:37 AM EDT

NEW YORK ( -- The ubiquitous yellow happy face is at the center of an angry battle between Wal-Mart Stores and a company owned by a French family, according to a report Wednesday.

London-based SmileyWorld first registered rights to the symbol with the French trademark authorities in October 1971, but the battle with Wal-Mart didn't begin until SmileyWorld filed for a U.S. trademark in 1997 for the exclusive right to commercial use and licensing of the term "smiley" in conjunction with the face logo, the International Herald Tribune reported.

"A prehistoric man probably invented the smiley face in some cave, but I certainly was the first to register it as a trademark," said Franklin Loufrani, who said he initially registered the design, according to the newspaper.

"When it comes to commercial use, registration is what counts."

However, unlike most countries in Europe and Asia, the U.S. operates under a system in which being the first to register a trademark bears less weight than being the first to exploit a symbol commercially, Burkhart Goebel, the global head of the intellectual property practice at the law firm Lovells, told the newspaper.

"Here in the U.S., we consider how heavily a trademark is used, and that would give SmileyWorld a big uphill battle," Marc E. Ackerman, a New York-based partner at the White & Case law firm and a specialist in U.S. trademark law, told the newspaper.

Wal-Mart filed a notice of opposition to SmileyWorld's trademark application and then filed a separate application to trademark the smiley, the newspaper said.

In response, SmileyWorld filed a notice of opposition to Wal-Mart's application on the grounds that its own attempt to trademark the face had been rejected.

Both parties say they expect victory when the United States Patent and Trademark Office rules on the case this summer, the newspaper said.


© 2006 Cable News Network LP, LLLP. A Time Warner Company ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Attorney General charges Wal-Mart, AutoZone with inaccurate pricing

Attorney General charges Wal-Mart, AutoZone with inaccurate pricing
The Business Journal of Phoenix - 2:52 PM MST Thursday
by Mike Sunnucks
The Business Journal

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard filed complaints Thursday against retailers Wal-Mart and AutoZone over price displays and postings.

State rules require retailers to post accurate prices on or near products, groceries and other goods.

In complaints filed with the Maricopa County Superior Court, Goddard said Wal-Mart and AutoZone were failing to abide by those rules and scored poorly on price tag inspections.

Goddard, a Democrat, is up for reelection in November against Republican East Valley attorney Bill Montgomery.

Neither Wal-Mart or AutoZone were immediately available for comment.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is Arizona's largest private employer, with more than 28,000 workers in its stores here.

AutoZone Inc. (NYSE: AZO) is a national auto parts retailer.

© 2006 American City Business Journals, Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of bizjournals.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Court Upholds Blocking of Wal-Mart Store

Court Upholds Blocking of Wal-Mart Store
From Times Staff and Wire Reports
July 5, 2006

A federal appeals court has ruled that the city of Turlock's ordinance barring big-box retailer Wal-Mart doesn't infringe on the company's constitutional rights.

The ruling is the third time the courts have sided with the city against Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"I'm extremely pleased and feel extremely vindicated," Turlock Mayor Curt Andre said Monday.

Wal-Mart sued Turlock soon after the City Council passed an ordinance in 2004 barring a 225,000-square-foot super center.

The council said the operation would lead to traffic and environmental damage.

Wal-Mart lost in Stanislaus County Superior Court in 2004 and appealed the case to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, which ruled against the corporation in April.

A federal court in Fresno echoed the other courts' rulings.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lee & Me: My Meeting With Wal-Mart's CEO, The World's Most Powerful Businessman

Lee & Me: My Meeting With Wal-Mart's CEO, The World's Most Powerful Businessman
Seventh Generation
Friday, June 30, 2006

If you spend your days immersed in the corporate world, there’s really
only one way to describe a business trip I took last December: I was
invited to an audience with the King. I was called to the commercial
realm that is ostensibly the world’s 20th largest economy and the home
of more indentured servants than any other. And so it was that I went to
the very palace of the corporate kingdom some people love and others
love to hate—to Bentonville, Arkansas, and the headquarters of Wal-Mart,
for my meeting with CEO Lee Scott.

I have spent over a month contemplating this journey. Why does the
president of the world’s largest company want to spend time with me—the
president of a tiny Vermont business, author of a book about corporate
responsibility, and a frequent, harsh, and vocal critic? How can I
engage with the essence of a giant like Wal-Mart to meaningfully alter
its trajectory and harness its potential to be a power for equity,
justice and environmental sustainability? It’s a tall order.

A story that appeared in the Economist magazine the week before my trip
goes a long way toward explaining why they called and why I went.
According to the article, a survey by Zogby International has found that
38% of Americans have a negative opinion of Wal-Mart, and that 55% have
formed a less favorable opinion of it “based on what they have recently
seen, heard or read.” Those aren’t good numbers no matter how high your
sales are. (And Wal-Mart sales are high. The company is responsible for
an astounding 2% of the country’s GDP and accounts for 8.90 out of every
$100 spent in U.S. retail stores.)

The factors that account for Wal-Mart’s low standing in the polls are
neatly summarized at Suffice it to say that
Wal-Mart hasn’t been the most responsible corporation on the planet, and
people have started to notice.

So there I am. Monday morning, December 19th, 2005. Burlington
International Airport. The announcement about my 7:10 am Delta flight
from Burlington to Atlanta sends a shiver down my spine. The gate agent
says that 14 of the 37 passengers will be selected to be taken off the
flight. Light snow on the runway requires that the plane lighten its
load due to limited braking ability. Removing over 35% of the passengers
from a single flight goes beyond anything I have ever experienced.
Mentally I prepare my argument as to why I shouldn’t be one of the 14.
How many people are granted a meeting with Lee Scott, president of the
world’s biggest company? Thankfully the need to argue my case isn’t
necessary. I win this particular lottery.

I’m honestly not quite sure where Northern Arkansas Regional Airport
even is. The fellow sitting next to me on the flight out of Atlanta to
Arkansas tells me 95% of the passengers on the plane are headed to
Wal-Mart. He spends three weeks out of every month in Bentonville
working for a warehousing & distribution company based in Boston. We
talk about my trip. I mention my not infrequent concerns about Wal-Mart.
Almost reflexively, he seems to defend his client. He talks about what
good people they are, how hard they work to meet the social and
environmental challenges they face. A fact that, if true, is lost on
most of the people I know. He’s perplexed that I have no interest in
selling them anything except perhaps some new ideas!

Driving from the airport to the year-old South Rogers store, I stop
repeatedly to make sure that I’m not lost. The deeply rural scenery
seems to lack enough people to keep a super center in business, but
after a 15 minute drive I find a highway and then the store.

Andy Rubin, the VP of Corporate Strategy, meets me along with a
collection of buyers responsible for infant & toddler products from
Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, including diapers, wipes, pacifiers, clothing,
and furniture. We discuss chlorine, PVC, phthalates, organic cotton,
toxic chemicals, the Precautionary Principle, and the power that
Wal-Mart has to change the world.

By the time we’re done we’re running late, and I’m not happy. Now 15
minutes of meeting time with Lee Scott has been lost, due to our not
paying attention to the time we spent in the store.

No matter how much one tries to prepare for a meeting about the current
state and future direction of this gigantic company, you’re always left
with a feeling that it’s just too big to get your arms around. After
weeks of preparation, I have what I believe is a clear perspective and
some sound strategic advice to compliment the years of relatively
blistering critiques of Wal-Mart that I have delivered as part of almost
every speech I have given.

Lee, dressed in a dark grey suit and a black sweater, stands holding the
door open as I enter the building. I need to look down at his name badge
to be sure it’s him. I’m impressed that he’s humble enough to greet me

I enter a nondescript conference room where the senior management team
is immersed in a conversation about holiday sales. Present are Lee Scott
, CEO & President of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc; Lawrence Jackson, Wal-Mart
EVP People; John Westling, Wal-Mart SVP; Andy Ruben, VP Corporate
Strategy; Doug McMillon, President of Sam’s Club; Greg Spragg, EVP Sam’s
Club; and Lee Tappenden, VP International Merchandizing. It’s quite an

Saturday’s numbers were off, even though same-store sales on holiday
items were up 40% over last year. Lee explains the challenges of
customers waiting later and later to do their holiday shopping. He’s
received an unhappy call from his boss S. Robson Walton, Chairman of the
Board of Directors of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and son of the legendary
Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. Walton phoned early Sunday morning wanting
a sales update, and the news was not great. Lee called him back midday
on Monday to let him know that the week was off to a better start. Sales
are an obsessive focus, an almost unconscious part of every
conversation. But why are they discussing this in front of me? They
didn’t bring me down here to figure out how to run a sales promotion on
Christmas ornaments.

I am lost and frankly a bit confused as the conversation drags on for
several minutes. Lee stops and admits that this is a conversation that
never quits this time of year and is, in fact, an obsession. He talks
with some pride about the incredible sales of the company’s different
divisions, how much toilet paper and laundry detergent they sell. It’s
billions isn’t it? he asks the President of Sam’s. And you’ll do how
many billion this year? he asks the head of U.S. Wal-Mart stores.

Finally we get to the introductions. Lee says he doesn’t know much about
me and asks for a description of who I am and what I’ve done, other than
write a book that he and his management team have read. This catches me
off guard. I thought for sure that someone had prepared the equivalent
of an FBI dossier on me for Lee’s review before I arrived.

I run through the two minute version of the story of my life, and then
seize the opportunity to ask my own questions. I ask Lee to describe the
legacy he wants to be remembered for at Wal-Mart. He struggles with the
question, falls back on the Sam Walton story, and describes himself as
continuing a tradition rather then designing a new purpose for the giant
company. Pressing him again for a better answer, he talks about the team
he wants to build and leave behind when he “turns out the lights in the
office for the last time.” In effect, he keeps saying it’s not about

Pressed again, at this point a little uncomfortably, he talks about
being the best they can be, about diversity programs, environmental
initiatives, the careers they help their associates build. But nothing
that feels like a clear purpose or focused direction.

I take a different tact. I admit that I, like hundreds of other critics,
have my own perspective on what Wal-Mart is doing right (not much) and
wrong (a lot) when it comes to corporate responsibility. On how to
proactively manage the endless bad press they get. How they could go
about seizing their potential. Did they want to hear my thoughts? Why
not, they answer. Everyone else comes down here and tells us what they
think we should do. We’re used to it at this point.

(I didn’t know it at the time, but I was part of a large parade of
impressive visitors making the trip to Bentonville, from McKinsey to
Eddleman Communications, hundreds of environmental NGOs, and the leaders
of America’s most well respected companies. I had no idea at the time
how good I had to be. Wal-Mart, as Charles Fishman writes in his
excellent new book, The Wal-Mart Effect, is like a gigantic, humungous
deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming meteorite.

Well I’m not here to take you to task, I say. You know the drill, what
everyone thinks you’re doing wrong. I want to share a vision of
possibility based on real transparency, self criticism, engagement with
your toughest critics, and a disciplined understanding of your footprint
on the planet. I want to help lead you to a clear and rational plan for
what you’re going to do, how long it will take, and why certain issues
can’t be addressed now; all in a way that everyone who’s interested can
understand and get their heads around.

Look, says Lee. We’re already doing that. We talk to the activists. We
have launched hundreds of initiatives. We have nothing to hide.

What about those initiatives? In a recent speech titled “Twenty First
Century Leadership,” Lee asked, “What would it take for Wal-Mart to be
that company, at our best, all the time? What if we used our size and
resources to make this country and this earth an even better place for
all of us: customers, Associates, our children, and generations unborn?
What would that mean? Could we do it? Is this consistent with our
business model?

“As one of the largest companies in the world, with an expanding global
presence, environmental problems are OUR problems. The supply of natural
products (fish, food, water) can only be sustained if the ecosystems
that provide them are sustained and protected. There are not two worlds
out there, a Wal-Mart world and some other world. Our environmental
goals at Wal-Mart are simple and straightforward: to be supplied 100
percent by renewable energy. To create zero waste. To sell products that
sustain our resources and environment. These goals are both ambitious
and inspirational, and I’m not sure how to achieve them, at least not
yet. This obviously will take some time.”

Sounds good doesn’t it? So how come no one believes him? That’s the $64
million question. And so it is that we move on to issues of transparency
and credibility.

Doug McMillon, President of Sam’s Club says that with over 1.6 million
employees Wal-Mart as a company has no secrets.

Yes, I say. You’ve got over one million people, all telling their own
version of your story. That’s why it’s so confusing to understand. When
you don’t tell your own story, but let everyone else do it instead, you
end up with a chaotic picture that ensures that what ever message you
want to communicate is lost.

Look at your website, I continue. There’s little meaningful information
about your company from a social and environmental perspective. So you
effectively force people like me to visit the websites of your most
ardent critics to get that information, because I can’t get it directly
from you. You’re letting your critics frame the story and tell it from
their point of view. Your voice is lost.

There’s a pause that’s more than pregnant. I’ve struck a cord. They get
it. There’s transparency and then there’s transparency. They’re starting
to get what it means to take that next step.

Lee, who has been president for only five years, says that they’ve spent
most of their time bringing in the sandbags to reinforce their bunker.
They’ve effectively helped organize the whole activist community by
refusing to engage in any meaningful dialogue. The labor community
(WalmartWatch, WakeupWalMart) has seized this opening that Wal-Mart has
inadvertently created.

A big mistake, says Lee. We helped organize our enemies better than they
could have done themselves. (In fact, Wal-Mart has unintentionally
succeeded in uniting a diverse collection of activists, from labor and
environmental advocates to health care and women’s rights campaigners,
that otherwise rarely even speak to each other.)

But they say they’ve changed. Starting 18 months ago, for some reason
that wasn’t entirely clear, Wal-Mart launched an initiative of
conversation and engagement. We talked about all the NGOs and activist
groups that have secretly made the trip down to Bentonville to see if
Wal-Mart was really willing to own up to its problems and consider
substantive change. We talked about the fact that none of them would
ever even admit to having made the trip. The company has become a giant
social pariah, the ultimate embodiment of corporate evil. So bad, that
NGOs are afraid to let their peers, donors and friends know that they
had even talked to Wal-Mart. The blight it would leave on their
reputation would cost them donor support and credibility, they say. I
say that Wal-Mart shouldn’t accept that these organizations want to work
with them but won’t risk their reputations to openly talk about the good
and bad that they find.

Lee talks about secret meetings with politicians who were terrified of
the fallout from labor unions if the meetings were to become public. He
talks about entering buildings through secret entrances, conversations
that “never happened.” The secrecy sounds painful.

Lee also talks about how horribly ugly their stores are, and the
negative impact they have on a community because they look so
inappropriate and out of place. He talks about what it feels like to
watch the news, and to see Wal-Mart pop up in those ubiquitous text
“crawls” at the bottom of the screen on all the news channels. “Airplane
crashes in Florida, 20 feared dead… Wal-Mart store manager abuses
African-American in Florida Store… Global warming talks in Canada at a

He says that moments before he walked into the room, AP broke a story
about a federal investigation into the company’s handling of merchandise
classified as hazardous waste. Lee asks why every single negative act by
any Wal-Mart employee anywhere seems to make the headlines. They are out
to get us, he says, meaning the labor unions. In any way they can.

We talk about the failure of Wal-Mart to create a coherent and
understandable framework for the huge enterprise they run. I suggest a
more aggressive approach to setting expectations around what they can
and can’t control; but not without making firm and clear commitments
about what they’re willing to change and by when. Remember, I say.
Transparency, in its most absolute sense, is about both the good and the
bad things you’re doing.

Look, I continue, here’s just one example: you could revolutionize the
household cleaner business overnight if you required full ingredient
disclosure on the label of every cleaning product you sold. You could
take the industry to task on an exemption that is enjoyed by almost no
other consumer product. Not only would the entire industry comply, but
most of the toxic and carcinogenic chemicals would be removed from their
formulas before the new labels were printed.

Doug McMillon, an extremely open and likeable guy, says they’re the most
critical people you’ll ever find. No one gives us a harder time than we
do ourselves, he says. You wouldn’t believe what goes on inside this

Maybe, I respond, but unfortunately most of that criticism doesn’t make
its way outside these walls. No one really knows who you guys are or
what you believe. The fact that you’re thoughtful and compassionate is
lost on the entire world.

Lee explains that they’ve got a $25 million activist campaign against
them, a campaign that seeks to put the company out of business. This
labor issue, that’s one place we can’t go, he says. There are people who
believe that the best thing that could happen is that we simply shut
down. That’s just not going to happen. (The truth is that the last thing
that Andy Grossman, Executive Director of Wal-Mart Watch, ever expects
to happen is the complete shut down of Wal-Mart. He knows full well
that’s never going to occur.)

Lee strikes me as a passionate, authentic and, at times, embattled soul.
He was humble, self-critical, and gently defensive at first, but sensing
my true earnestness to help, he increasingly opens up and seems to
become more deeply engaged with the possibilities here. He seems to see
this challenge and the opportunity it represents with new eyes.

I end the meeting by asking if I can help. Absolutely, they say. And so
I will. I’m eager to test the boundaries of change here. Because when
you think about it, there’s not much greater good that I can do than
corral this giant and get it to see its work as nothing more and nothing
less than a labor of love for the next generations.

As fellow business people, citizens of our nation, members of the human
race, and residents of a planet in trouble, we have no option but to
help, cajole, push and even shove this retail behemoth onto the side of
sustainability and responsibility, open dialogues, and new choices. It’s
not only the best answer, it’s probably the only answer.

The opportunities are endless. Imagine a Wal-Mart committed to ending
poverty and revolutionizing the U.S. healthcare system to provide
preventative health care for all. Think about a Wal-Mart pushing for
transparency on its products’ social and environmental impacts. Picture
a Wal-Mart promoting an agricultural system that relies primarily on
sustainable methods and lobbying for a world in which the United States
is the primary engine for a just and equitable future.

They can do it. And I’ll go even further and say that after my meeting,
I very much suspect they would like to.

P.S. Andy Rubin, the VP of Corporate Strategy, and I are still talking.
We’ve exchanged phone calls, emails, and have shared a dinner together
up here in my neck of the woods. We’ve reviewed the outline for their
first ever Corporate Responsibility report, talked about a policy for
chemicals, and discussed designing a meeting to work on the process of
redefining their corporate culture. Progress is slow. But the news has
been a bit more positive of late. Stay tuned…

And in case you’re wondering―despite some pretty passionate interest in
selling Seventh Generation at Wal-Mart, the answer is still no. At least
for now.

© 2005 United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
This site is in no way connected with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. or any affiliate of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

What a steal - Wal-Mart accused of rolling back employees’ earned pay

What a steal - Wal-Mart accused of rolling back employees’ earned pay
By Casey Ross
Boston Herald Reporter
Sunday, July 2, 2006 - Updated: 08:44 AM EST

Wal-Mart violated state law more than 1 million times by skimping on work breaks and pay owed to thousands of former employees, says a lawyer representing Massachusetts plaintiffs in one of the state’s largest-ever class-action lawsuits.

The volume of claims in the long-running suit against the megaretailer has expanded dramtically in recent months, even as lawyers for Wal-Mart pursue motions to torpedo the case by challenging its class-action status.

Documents filed in Middlesex Superior Court last week by an attorney representing Wal-Mart employees charge the company is trying to “extinguish the claims” of Bay State plaintiffs who were shorted pay in “well over one million” instances.

“All these people depended on their paychecks to live day to day,” said attorney Robert Bonsignore, who represents Wal-Mart employees. “They were chiseled out of pennies compared to Wal-Mart’s billions.”

Wal-Mart declined to address the allegations in the case, saying, “It is disrespectful to the court to comment on matters that will be heard in a legal proceeding. . . . we’re not going to comment.”

The Massachusetts suit is one of 70 some lawsuits Wal-Mart is facing nationwide, with employees from Oregon to Arkansas alleging the company deprived them of full pay for regular and overtime hours, and in some cases deliberately manipulated time sheets.

Officials with state Attorney General Tom Reilly’s office say they are closely monitoring the Massachusetts case and are seeking access to evidence gathered in the suit that would allow the state to pursue its own legal case.

Bonsignore, who has worked with a California firm that won a $172 million verdict against Wal-Mart last year, is also the lead attorney on a 22-state federal lawsuit alleging systematic wage and hour violations by the company.

Among his clients is a disabled woman from Chelmsford who has accused Wal-Mart of changing her time sheet to show she worked only one minute on days she worked eight-hour shifts.

“When I went to to complain, my manager just told me (my paycheck) was right, that there wasn’t a problem,” said Kelly Thompson, 32, who worked as a greeter for about a year before being terminated. “But they would never open up the books to show me. They just insisted.”

Thompson, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, said she was shocked when her lawyers showed her a computer analysis alleging that Wal-Mart routinely denied her pay for the hours she worked. “I feel like I was ripped off,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they would actually do this to someone.”

A Wal-Mart official declined an opportunity to respond to Thompson’s allegations. The Massachusetts case against the company is scheduled to go to trial in October.


© Copyright by the Boston Herald and Herald Media.
No portion of or its content may be reproduced without the owner's written permission

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Federal court upholds Wal-Mart ban

Federal court upholds Wal-Mart ban
For the third time, Turlock lawlimiting big-box retailers survives
Last Updated: July 4, 2006, 07:26:28 AM PDT

TURLOCK — A federal court in Fresno ruled on Monday that the city's ordinance barring big-box retailers doesn't infringe on Wal-Mart's "constitutional or other rights." It's the city's third courtroom win against the retail giant.
Wal-Mart sued Turlock soon after the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance in 2004 barring a 225,000-square-foot supercenter the corporation planned for Countryside Drive, off Highway 99. The council said the operation would cause substantial traffic congestion and result in undue environmental damage.

Wal-Mart lost in Stanislaus County Superior Court in 2004 and appealed the case to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Fresno, which ruled against the corporation in April. The U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, also in Fresno, mirrored the other courts' rulings on Monday.

"I'm extremely pleased and feel extremely vindicated," said Mayor Curt Andre. "Three courts of law have ruled in favor of a city setting its traffic standards and being able to develop without the fear of being overruled by a monster corporation or any special interest, for that matter."

Wal-Mart has the option to appeal the federal ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco. The retail giant already has petitioned to have the state appellate case reviewed by the state Supreme Court.

"We are disappointed with the judgment, and given the length of the opinion, 64 pages or so, we're going to have to study it before we determine our next step," said Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley.

Turlock attorneys said if Wal-Mart decides to appeal the federal case, the Bentonville, Ark.- based retailer would be playing with fire as an unfavorable ruling would apply to much of the Western United States. On the state level, the Supreme Court has not decided whether it will hear the case.

"Frankly, I don't expect (the state Supreme Court) to grant review because it's not a decision that should rise to the level of its attention," said Ben Fay, a partner in Oakland-based Jarvis, Fay & Doporto, which is representing Turlock in the case.

In September 2003, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting "discount superstores" greater than 100,000 square feet that devote more than 5 percent of the sales floor to nontaxable or grocery items.

Wal-Mart alleged the city was in collusion with existing area grocers such as Raley's, Safeway Inc. and Save Mart Supermarkets. The motivation, the retailer argued, was to keep an "out-of-state" business — Wal-Mart — out of Turlock.

Monday's ruling was a sum-mary judgment, written by Judge Oliver W. Wanger, and essentially sidesteps a full-blown trial.

"At the very root of what this means for the city and other smaller cities across the state is they have control over their own land-use planning," Fay said.

The ruling has no effect on Wal-Mart's store on Fulkerth Road.

Turlock has spent $370,000 in its legal war against Wal-Mart — none of which it can get back under California law, but some proposed legislation may change that.

Typically, the loser in a civil case pays the winner's legal costs, but state law prevents government entities from collecting. State Senate Bill 1818, if made law, would let government entities collect. The Senate has approved SB 1818 and late last month the Assembly Judiciary Committee did, too.

If the full Assembly endorses the bill, it will land on Gov. Schwarzenegger's desk. The Assembly is expected to hear the bill next month.

Bee staff writer Michael R. Shea can be reached at 667-1227 or

Copyright © 2006 The Modesto Bee.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Scores evacuated as fumes close store


Scores evacuated as fumes close store
By Michael Levenson and Yuxing Zheng, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent
July 2, 2006

More than 60 people were taken to area hospitals yesterday, complaining of nausea, burning eyes, and shortness of breath after being exposed to an unknown, apparently airborne irritant at a Wal-Mart in Danvers, authorities said.

The emergency began with a 9 11 call at about 2:30 p.m. from someone at the store who complained about an unknown gas wafting through the air, fire officials said. Firefighters and hazardous materials teams responded, setting up a yellow tent where they sprayed exiting employees and shoppers with decontaminants.

Wal-Mart officials shut the store and evacuated everyone inside. The victims were taken to several hospitals in the area; none of their injuries were considered life threatening, authorities said.

Sergeant Carole Germano of the Danvers Fire Department said that the store's ventilation system was working at the time of the 9 11 call and that no flammable gases were detected inside the Wal-Mart. Germano said investigators were not sure what had afflicted people inside the store yesterday.

``It's just some unknown irritant," Germano said. ``They don't even know what it is right now."

Amy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart's corporate offices in Arkansas, said the company was working with fire officials.

``The safety of our customers is our top concern and we will continue to do everything we can to provide a safe atmosphere," Campbell said.

Danvers Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Farrell said that people who were inside the store noticed the smell of gas coming from the area near the front registers. ``It's a major incident, but it's not catastrophic," Farrell said.

Helene Freitas, 47, a cashier at the Wal-Mart, was wearing an oxygen mask in the parking lot outside the store yesterday. She was taken to a hospital in Peabody, said her sister, Beverly resident Kim Mitchell .

``She was in line and she felt burning in her eyes and throat," Mitchell said. ``You see this stuff on TV, not your sister."

Chris Bartholomew, 21, of Ipswich, a Wal-Mart employee, noticed what he described as ``graininess in the air" inside the store as he was walking to the front to go outside to help a customer.

``When I was breathing in, it kind of felt like there was sand in the air and I started coughing," he said, adding that he had a scratchy throat.

Bartholomew was outside when he saw paramedics arrive at the scene. He said many people near him were coughing, and paramedics divided the dozens affected into those who had shortness of breath and those with other symptoms.

Bartholomew said he was treated in a makeshift decontamination tent outside the store before he was taken by ambulance to North Shore Medical Center in Salem. He was given oxygen, but was released after doctors determined that he had no long-lasting symptoms.

A spokeswoman at North Shore Medical Center said 19 people had been taken to the center's Salem facility and seven were treated at Union Hospital in Lynn. All 26 victims have been released.

A Beverly Hospital spokesman said the hospital had treated and released 14 people and another 11 were treated and released at Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester. Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Peabody treated a dozen.

The Rev. Rick Gardner, 38, and his wife, Ruth Anne, 35, of Lynn, were among the many treated at North Shore Medical Center in Salem. They described an unnerving series of events at the store.

``We were walking in, and a woman was telling a man that there was a funny smell and someone had gotten sick," Ruth Anne Gardner said. `` As soon as you walked near the carts, there was an overwhelming scent and your nose started burning -- and the back of your throat."

They did not think much of it initially, and went to get pictures developed. But as they were getting ready to leave, employees started telling customers to leave the building.

``There wasn't any pandemonium -- they were telling everyone ` You must exit now,' and the associates were saying ` Leave! Leave!' " Rick Gardner said, adding that there were two firefighters at the registers by the door.

``We smelled it and tasted it -- you just had this very bitter taste," Ruth Anne Gardner said. She described feeling ``woozy."

The effects of the contaminant apparently hit them as they settled into their car. Rick Gardner, pastor of the First Church of Nazarene in Lynn, said his arm got very warm, tingly, and a little numb.

She was decontaminated outside the store, and he was taken by ambulance to North Shore Medical Center, where he was given oxygen. He said he was perplexed as to why customers were guided out the front door, where a concentrated form of the odor hung . He said he felt lightheaded, and watched as another ambulance passenger struggled to breathe.

Michael Levenson can be reached at Brian Ballou and Cristina Silva of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Wal-Mart Is Not a Business, It's an Economic Disease

This article appears in the Nov. 14, 2003 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
Wal-Mart Is Not a Business, It's an Economic Disease
by Richard Freeman and Arthur Ticknor

(See also ``Wal-Mart Collapses U.S. Cities and Towns,'' Nov. 14, 2003; ``Wal-Mart Eats More Manufacturers, Jobs,'' Nov. 21, 2003; Wal-Mart Family Trust--The Real Beast of Bentonville, Ark., Jan. 23, 2004.)

The Wal-Mart department store chain, which employs 1.3 million people at 4,700 stores worldwide, and in 2002 became the largest corporation in the world, is levelling economies of the U.S., industrial nations, and the Third World.

Wal-Mart is a driving force behind the decadent Imperial Roman model of the United States. Unable any longer to reproduce its own population's existence through its own physical economy, the United States has, for the past two decades, used an over-valued dollar to suck in physical goods from around the globe for its survival. Wal-Mart is both the public face and working sinews of that policy. It brings in cheap pants from Bangladesh, cheap shirts from China, cheap food from Mexico, etc. Workers who produce these things are paid next to nothing.

Not since the days of the British East India Company as the cornerstone of the British imperial system, has one single corporate entity been responsible for so much misery. At the core of its policy, Wal-Mart demands of its suppliers that they sell goods to Wal-Mart at such a low price, that they can only do so by outsourcing their work to low-wage factories overseas. This causes the exodus of millions of production jobs from the United States and the setting up of slave-labor concentration camps around the globe. Wal-Mart's policy includes crushing living standards in America, forbidding its workers from unionizing, bringing in workers illegally from abroad, and bankrupting tens of thousands of stores and outlets on Main Street, ripping apart communities and their tax bases.

On Nov. 1, 2004, Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche declared that Wal-Mart and its destructive policy must be stopped. LaRouche declared a boycott against Wal-Mart, to expose it and take it down. LaRouche told a cadre school gathering of the LaRouche Youth Movement in Philadelphia, "Wal-Mart is not a company, it's an epidemic disease. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest factors in causing unemployment in the United States.... Wal-Mart is your enemy.... It's destroying our community; it represents globalization; it represents an institutionalization of the values which stink." (See full text in Feature.)

Wal-Mart has been primed for this role since 1962, when it was founded by Sam Walton in his hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas. It has such immense power in the United States, and leverage overseas, that it has run roughshod over all opposition—until now.

Sam's Club ... Over Your Head
Sam Walton started in the retailing business when he bought a Ben Franklin five and dime store in Newport, Arkansas in 1945. In 1962, he opened the first store under the name "Wal-Mart." In 1970, Wal-Mart made its first public stock offering; the issue was underwritten by Stephens, Inc. of Little Rock, an investment bank which has been identified with some shady dealings.

In 1987, a turning point came for Wal-Mart, when it opened its first superstore, called Hypermarket*USA, modeled on the hypermarkets of Europe. At that time, the average clothing or grocery store in America had 15-22,000 square feet of space. By contrast, the hypermarkets, now called supercenters, had 150-200,000 feet. The supercenter was based on the idea of one-stop shopping: In the same store, one could buy groceries, merchandise and appliances, fast food, and photo development; one could also do one's banking. Wal-Mart took advantage of an advanced inventory system; its bulk purchases of goods, which led to price discounts; and a ferocious anti-labor policy keeping wages very low.

The company set out to obliterate its competition. At the Bentonville headquarters, Wal-Mart still displays the pictures of the heads of its 24 major food and merchandise chain competitors, each framed like an FBI "Wanted" poster. It now builds one new store every 42 hours.

Figure 1 shows that Wal-Mart's annual sales quadrupled from $55.5 billion in its Fiscal Year 1993, to $244.5 billion in FY 2003 (which ended Jan. 1, 2003).

Walmart has grabbed a dominant or near-dominant position in key sectors of the retail market:

* It sells 19% of all grocery-store food in the United States, making it the largest food seller. It plans to double grocery and related sales from $82 billion to $165 billion during the next five years, which would give it command of 35% of the market. It plans to open 40 supercenters in California over the next five years, which is a major cause for the grocery strike in southern California. Managements at the three major grocery stores in southern California, where 70,000 United Food and Commercial Workers (UCFW) workers are striking, have said they are trying to renegotiate lower employer contributions to health-care benefits, because they fear that Wal-Mart plans to saturate southern California with stores, and they will be unable to compete.

* It handles 16% of all pharmacy-drug sales in the United States, and plans to increase that share to 25% by 2008, which would make it the largest pharmacy in America.

* It controls 30% of the U.S. household staples market—paper towels, toothpaste, shampoo—and analysts predict that it will increase that share to 50% before decade's end.

* It is Hollywood's biggest outlet, selling 15-20% of all CDs, videos, and DVDs in the United States.

* It sells 15% of all single-copy news publications.

Reciprocally, Wal-Mart controls a large and increasing share of the business done by almost every major consumer-products company: 28.3% of Dial's (soap products); 24% of Del Monte Foods'; 23% of Clorox's (bleaches and cleaners); and 23% of Revlon's (cosmetics). It controls one-fifth or more of the business done by Proctor & Gamble (household products and soaps); Levi Strauss (jeans and clothing); and Newell Rubbermaid (household consumer rubber products). That is, Wal-Mart is all of these firms' biggest outlet, by a wide margin.

This gives Wal-Mart tremendous leverage over all its producers/suppliers, even though many of them are in the Fortune 500. Twenty years ago, the supplier of products went to Wal-Mart, and told Wal-Mart the price to charge for each product. Today, Wal-Mart "co-determines" the price; it tells the supplier what type of product it wants, how to arrange its inventory, what sort of product line to develop. Because Wal-Mart determines how much shelf space each supplier receives, it has life-and-death control over that supplier. If Wal-Mart says that it wants a product's price to be lowered by 20-25%, that supplier will be forced to outsource an increasing share of its production.

Likewise, Wal-Mart has become a conveyor belt, either directly or through its suppliers, for imported goods, mostly from cheap-labor countries. Wal-Mart imports 10% of all America's total imports from China. According to the Sept. 26, 2003 Irish Independent, "If Wal-Mart were a country, it would rank ahead of Great Britain and Russia in total imports."

Destruction of Labor
Wal-Mart uses its power to ferociously attack and decimate labor power, and it is the leading force in the mass exodus of U.S. manufacturing capacity and jobs.

The company is militantly anti-union. Reportedly it has instructed its managers never to hire workers who once belonged to a union. It also reportedly fires workers who score too high on a "union probability index." When a union tries to unionize a Wal-Mart cluster of stores, "labor experts" are flown in from Bentonville to counterorganize. Workers are ordered to sit in on weekly "labor relations classes," where management tells them why they should not join a union, and gives them badges saying, "We can speak for ourselves." At one store in Texas, where a union tried to organize, 15 surveillance cameras were installed.

The results? Wal-Mart's grocery workers earn an average $8.23 per hour—23% less than grocery workers at unionized stores. Many Wal-Mart workers are allowed to work a maximum of only 28 hours per week. More than two-thirds of all Wal-Mart workers who have a full-time job earn an annual wage that is below the poverty level for a family of three.

According to the AFL-CIO, 66% of unionized workers at large companies are covered by health insurance. According to one study, only 45% of Wal-Mart workers are covered, and according to another study, only 38% are covered.

When a worker works overtime, Wal-Mart will not credit it on his or her time sheet. In many reported cases, workers have been locked into stores after hours to work late into the night and early morning on special displays, but were not paid overtime. Thousands of workers have recorded that they have worked overtime unpaid, but Wal-Mart says it has no record of the cases. There are court suits against Wal-Mart in 36 states on this issue alone.

Mass Unemployment
There are hundreds of American manufacturing plants which have shut down, and shipped production overseas, either partially or entirely due to Wal-Mart. In addition, many other retail outlets have been forced to adopt Wal-Mart's methods. We look at a few of the hundreds of cases in which Wal-Mart was directly involved:

Newell Rubbermaid is the largest producer of consumer rubber products in the United States, and Wal-Mart sells by far the largest volume of Rubbermaid products of any retail store. In January 2001, Joseph Galli was appointed the new chief executive officer of Rubbermaid, and he and his staff had an intensive series of meetings with Wal-Mart management on what products Rubbermaid should bring on line, including Wal-Mart's not-so-subtle suggestions about the price of the products. Since January 2001, Rubbermaid has shut down 69 out of its 400 facilities, and fired 11,000 workers. The equity research director at Associated Trust & Co., C. Mark Heaseldon, bluntly stated the reason, "To be able to meet the demands from key customers, like Wal-Mart ... [Rubbermaid has] to become competitive in price." He added that Galli would have to "shift about 50% of production to low-cost countries." This could force the closure of an additional 131 Rubbermaid facilities, and the firing of an additional 20,000 workers.

General Electric is one of the five biggest companies in America and the biggest producer of appliances, such as dishwashers, refrigerators, stoves, and TVs. The biggest outlet for GE goods is Wal-Mart. During the last few years, GE has conducted a large amount of outsourcing. The IUE union, which represents GE workers, has estimated that during the last five to seven years, GE has fired more than 100,000 workers, one of the nation's biggest outsourcing massacres. Most of this work was outsourced to Mexico, China, and Asia in general.

At Masterlock, 250 union workers lost their jobs in 2000 when Wal-Mart suddenly dropped the company's products and switched to an offshore, low-wage competitor.

Levi Strauss is one of the biggest manufacturers of jeans and denim products, including the line of Docker slacks. Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer of Levi Strauss products. During the past 18 months, after meetings with Wal-Mart, Levi Strauss announced it will shut down its four remaining production plants in North America and shift the work to Ibero-America and Asia. Several hundred jobs will be lost.

Dial Soap sells 28.3% of its production to Wal-Mart. Under Wal-Mart pressure, Dial is shutting down its Compton, California plant and shifting work to Argentina.

There are hundreds of similar stories. As a result of the Wal-Mart model, combined with the depression, more than 1 million manufacturing production jobs producing consumer goods have been lost since July 2000 alone.

Overseas Slave-Labor
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is operating slave-labor camps overseas. It does this through its suppliers and, increasingly, in its own name. One of the most infamous slave-labor camps is that in American Somoa—the Daewoosa Factory, where 230 workers, mostly young women from Vietnam and China, worked under conditions of indentured servitude. According to records, they were cheated of their meager wages, beaten, starved, sexually harassed, and threatened with deportation if they complained. On Feb. 21, 2003, in a court in Hawaii, the proprietor of the factory, Kil Soo Lee, was found guilty of 14 of 18 counts brought against him for indentured servitude. This factory sewed clothing for Wal-Mart, under Wal-Mart's "Beach Cabana" label (as well as producing for other retailers).

Wal-Mart has plundered the productive functions of the U.S. economy. It's time to shut down Wal-Mart!