Monday, October 31, 2005

More Wal-Mart shenanigans

Another day, another story involving improper business practices involving Wal-Mart. This broken record, playing over Andover and over and over, is becoming obnoxious. Someone needs to knock these bastards down a major peg.
The latest involves violations of the Child Labor Laws of this nation by 25 Wal-Mart stores in Arkansas, Connecticut and New Hampshire between 1998 and 2002. The cases center on usage of workers between 16-17 using hazardous equipment (chain saws, paper balers, forklifts).
Child labor laws forbid anyone under 18 from operating hazardous equipment, but that doesn’t matter to Wal-Mart. It apparently controls the government’s penalties.
You see, according to a report from an inspector general with the U.S. Department of Labor (released Monday according to the Associated Press), Wal-Mart’s LAWYERS were allowed to write key parts of the punitive deal with the feds. As a result, the world’s largest retailer was socked with a whopping fine of …$135,540, which is less than what it spends on toilet paper (one-ply, I’m sure) for its stores in a day.
The inspector general said Wal-Mart received “significant concessions” in the settlement that was originally made public last February. What, pray tell did Wal-Mart cook up for itself?
1) The Labor Department is required to notify Wal-Mart 15 days in advance before opening an audit or investigation (that would be totally something inconsistent with guidelines for the department’s Wage and Hour Division, according to the report).
2) Wal-Mart can avoid formal citations or penalties if it brings the offending stores into compliance within 10 days of being notified about a violation.
To Wal-Mart’s good, the report found no evidence of violations of federal laws or regulations. Nor did inspectors find evidence of pressure from internal or external sources during development of the agreement.
The inspector general attributed the problems to “inadequate management controls and guidelines.” You think?!?!?
“These breakdowns resulted in (the Wage and Hour Division) entering into an agreement that gave significant concessions to Wal-Mart ... in exchange for little commitment from the employer beyond what it was already doing or required to do by law,” the report stated.
In that most ridiculous of non-denial denials, Wal-Mart (of course) denied the allegations, but agreed to pay the penalty. Funny, how those “innocent” corporations constantly pay for non-mistakes and non-violations of law. Anyone with a functioning brain knows payment equals guilt. Period.
Labor Department officials disputed some of the charges of favoritism, thinking that chump change is a good punishment for such illegal behavior. Their weakness and incompetence is testament to how little the current government in power cares about the consumer and average person. Pro-business now means anti-regulation and less stringent enforcement of reasonable laws.
Legislation is expected to be introduced that would bar the Labor Department from agreeing to provide notice to companies before investigating any wage-and-hour law complaints. However, it is coming from Democrats and such a bill probably has little opportunity for passage since Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retail company, had sales of $285 billion in its last fiscal year, ending last January. It can afford to train its staff and managers properly. It can afford to hire experienced workers able to handle hazardous equipment that are NOT 16 or 17 or 18 and get paid the most minimum of wage.
Wal-Mart can afford to stop breaking laws all over the place and still sit on top of the retail mountain. But with each action, it shows less and less desire to do so. And when you write your own rules and your own laws for your singular benefit, you cheat everybody.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s the kind of company you’re dealing with. It won’t stop until people insist.
When will people insist on doing the right thing over buying the cheapest thing?

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