Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You don't have to live in a third world country to be a defacto slave - you can also work at Walmart.

Those of us who take Torah seriously, and who understand the reasons why First World nations passed laws protecting workers from various abuses, know that the moral and ethical way to do business is to compensate employees fairly and keep them reasonably safe while they work. But corporations would like nothing more than to rid themselves of what they consider to be annoying and intrusive restrictions on how they treat their employees and the communities in which they are located. While manufacturers have simply packed up and moved to backwaters where defacto slavery doesn't bother anyone's conscience (apparently, since we keep buying their junk), retailers still supposedly have to deal with fair wages and other laws regarding reasonable treatment of their employees.

Unless they decide to ignore the laws. Employers such as Rubashkin had no qualms about moving to a rural area and exploiting children, illegal aliens, and the locals because they thought the people were so desperate for jobs that they would put up with it - and for the most part, they were. But the same types of things can happen in urban areas, too. And wally-wort is one of the worst offenders.

Fat cat CEOs don't have any scruples. Their goal is to stuff their wallets while relieving you of yours. If they can get away with exploiting First World workers, they will certainly do so.

Center for Research on Globalization
Sweatshop Conditions in US Cities
by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, October 9, 2009

...on Wal-Mart

With over $400 billion in sales and about 2.1 million employees, the company ranks third globally in the 2009 Fortune 500 rankings behind Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.

In 2008, Wal-Mart's average full-time Associate, its most common position, earned $10.84 an hour (for a 34-hour week) or an annual income of $19,165, $2,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2, 2008), the average full-time Wal-Mart Associate last year earned 16% less than the average retail wage. At the same time, its CEO Lee Scott (January 2000 - January 2009) earned $29.7 million in total compensation.

On December 23, 2008, the company announced that it settled 63 wage and hour class action lawsuits, representing about 86% of the 73 total pending. Through evidence obtained and employee testimonies, these cases revealed company ruthlessness in keeping labor costs down and unions out.

Legal documents showed that managers are rewarded for forcing employees to work off-the-clock, skip meal and rest breaks, then manipulate time and wage records to cut costs. They also overwork minors and keep them during school hours. An internal July 2000 company audit revealed that these violations were longstanding. Company executives engaged in illegal activity and hid the evidence to avoid liability.

Under terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed pay at least $352 million and perhaps as much as $640 million to present and former employees. According to Professor Paul Secunda of Marquette's School of Law, the company settled to avoid an even worse defeat, including what unionization might cost.

On October 23, 2003 in a 21-state raid, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 250 undocumented workers at 61 Wal-Mart stores. As cleaning crews and janitors, they were forced to work seven days a week under harsh conditions at below minimum wage rates, no overtime, and according to one employee "no benefits, no health insurance, no nothing."

The thing is, what they're paying in fines is still less than what they're "saving" by exploiting their employees. Of course, all that $29.7 million dollars that could have been paid to workers from just that one man's compensation package would have enabled those employees to have reasonable wages, which would in turn allow them to have money to spend and support the economy. Imagine what wages they could have if ALL the upper management of wally-wort were only paid a mere one million a year - more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle. But no, greed rules their day. Let the employees eat cake - the executives of wally-wort need to stuff their swiss bank accounts some more.

Still shopping there, class? I certainly hope not.

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