Wal-Mart Free NYC Coalition



Sunday, September 25, 2005

Global Workers Sue Wal-Mart

Apparel workers from factories in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Swaziland that produce clothes for Wal-Mart filed a class-action suit against Wal-Mart in a California state court last week.
The unique suit brought by the International Labor Rights Fund charges that Wal-Mart not only violated its own much ballyhooed code of contract for its contractors but also deliberately misled the American public about its efforts to protect the workers who make goods overseas for the retail giant.
The suit alleges Wal-Mart’s code created a contractual obligation between the company and the thousands of workers employed by the contractors that are required to comply with the code.
The workers charge they were paid less than minimum wage, denied time-and-a-half for overtime and were beaten and locked in the factories. For information, visit Laborrights.org or WalMartCostsYou.com.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

No School Supplies From Wal-Mart

Working families can send a message to Wal-Mart and start their children on the road to activism at the same time by joining other families in a campaign to buy back-to-school supplies somewhere other than a Wal-Mart store. Parents can visit Wake Up Wal-Mart to pledge to shop for school supplies elsewhere.
Parents also are helping their children write letters to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, telling him why their families won't buy school supplies from Wal-Mart this year. Wal-Mart has been fined in three states for violations of child labor laws this year alone. The company that raked in $10 billion in profits last year pays
poverty-level wages and fails to provide affordable health insurance to its workers.
More information about Wal-Mart's anti-worker practices is available at WalMartCostsYou.com . Parents are asked to send their children's letters by Aug. 1 to Lee Scott, c/o Wal-Mart Campaign, 815 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20006. The Wal-Mart campaign will make sure Scott gets the messages.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Congratulations

Congratulations are due to the people of the Brighton Bay neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida, on successfully blocking a Wal-Mart Supercenter from being built on wetlands. Wal-Mart can appeal the ruling to the city council, but they will face just as intense a fight there as they experienced with the Environmental Developement Commision.
Read all about it

Best of Luck!

From the Greeley Tribune:
Fifteen employees at the west Greeley Wal-Mart hope to break the track record of failed union attempts at Wal-Mart.

The group is inviting the 300-plus employees who work at the store at 920 47th Ave. to join them and organize under the United Food and Commercial Workers Local No. 7, the union of choice for many Front Range grocery workers.

"This is a big fight, and that's why I'm doing it," said Jared West, 21, a senior at the University of Northern Colorado who has worked at Greeley's newest Wal-Mart for two years. "I'm not the kind of person who can just sit there and allow (the company) to keep pushing people around. ... It scares me, but I'm not willing to back down. I don't know if I'm going to be able to change it around here, but I'm going to try."

Read the rest of the article

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

More Employee horror stories

Via Wal-Mart Watch:

Molly Beavers had worked the same job at the same store for 19 years, from 1984-1993 while it was Pace Membership Warehouse, and 1993-2003 after Sam's Club bought the store. Her job was to give food demonstrations and collect shopping carts. Corrective surgery has left her face partially paralyzed; "Now, a slight upward curl of her right cheek sends painful muscle spasms shooting down the right side of her lower face." Smiling causes her excruciating pain.
In 2003, "she tripped in a produce aisle drainage hole and fell to the ground. Her demonstration cart and microwave oven toppled over on her."

From there, Ms. Beavers' luck went from bad to worse. Sam's club refused to honor her worker's comp claim, and though she had lingering back problems,
"When she asked to sit on a stool while working, her manager would not allow it, the lawsuit states.
Beavers said a few older employees were allowed to sit on stools."

It must be just a huge coincidence, but just a little while after her claim was rejected a new manager fired her because she didn't smile enough.

"When Beavers explained her facial paralysis, Lail said, 'that's no excuse,' according to the federal filing."

Wal-Mart is no stranger to discrimination suits. in the 15 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed, Wal-Mart has been found guilty of discriminating against the disabled 15 times. And that's just how many times they've gotten caught.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Wal-Mart does it again

In California, "A state civil rights agency says Wal-Mart must pay at least $188,000 for refusing to reinstate a manager at its Antioch store after pregnancy leave."
Wal-Mart's crime? Firing a pregnant woman for attempting to exercise her legal right to disability leave. This must be part of their self-hyped diversity drive. Krista Jane Carver was a manager at Wal-Mart, and had worked there from 1996-2002.

"She applied for a month's disability leave in May 2002 after coming down with pregnancy-related diabetes. But when she tried to return the next month, she was told by George Allen, a regional manager, that she had used up all her leave time, had no right to reinstatement and had already been replaced."

No wonder Wal-Mart hates unions! They want to maintain their open door policy: the freedom to show pregnant women the open exit door (unless they're currently locked in the store). Regardless of the law.

Does all this sound familiar? It should: "In 1997, a jury found that Wal-Mart intentionally refused to rehire Ms. Stern because she was pregnant." That time, Wal-Mart was forced to cough up $220,000. If they got caught twice, one can imagine how many times this has actually occured.

Someone should do something about all these pesky laws that keep getting in the way of Wal-Mart's style of business. Or maybe it's time for the government to stop slapping Wal-Mart on the wrist and actually hold them accountable.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Shareholders Call On Wal-Mart To Form Committee To Review Controls And Compliance

NYC Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. press release:

View shareholder letter

Expressing serious concerns about recent reports of legal and regulatory non-compliance, a group of Wal-Mart shareholders called on the Audit Committee of the company's Board of Directors to establish a special committee of independent directors to conduct a comprehensive review of Wal-Mart's legal and regulatory controls, as well as its internal system for ensuring compliance with its own policies and standards.

The shareholders, in a letter to Roland A. Hernandez, Chairman of the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, urged the Board to issue a report on the Committee's findings and recommendations by December 2005.

The group is comprised of: New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., who is the investment adviser to the $85 billion New York City Pension Funds; Edward M. Smith, Chairman of the $10.8 billion Illinois State Board of Investment; Karina Litvack, Head of Governance &Socially Responsible Investing of F&C Asset Management, with $250 billion under management; and, Jason Fletcher, Americas Equity Manager of the $36 billion UK University Superannuation Scheme. They collectively represent holdings of 11,455,206 shares of Wal-Mart common stock, with an estimated market value of $545,840,565.

“As long-term investors and shareholders of Wal-Mart, we are deeply concerned that the frequency of reports exposing legal and regulatory non-compliance at the company could be indicative of inadequate internal controls and a lack of board oversight and accountability,” Thompson said. “These negative reports and headlines have damaged Wal-Mart's global reputation. The Board of Directors could help to bolster the company's image and shareholder confidence by enabling a committee of independent directors to take the action we have requested.”



Among the concerns cited by shareholders were the raids by U.S. federal agents of 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states, resulting in the arrest of 250 illegal immigrant workers, the related $11 million settlement of charges that Wal-Mart exploited illegal immigrants, and Wal-Mart's 2005 settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor of 24 violations of child labor laws in three states.

“It used to be that we had to go to a third world country to find this kind of exploitation,” said Ed Smith, Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Investment. “Now, I am appalled and embarrassed to find these practices at Wal-Mart, one of our holdings. The company has a duty to mount the independent investigation we are seeking – primarily because it's the right thing to do, but also because such practices could expose the company to legal liability. The ramifications for shareholders could be disastrous.”

In addition, the shareholders pointed to a federal court certification of a national class action sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees.

“As active and responsible long-term shareholders, USS's policy seeks to ensure that formal, effective and transparent internal control principles and systems are in place and implemented in companies in which it invests. Where the company has clearly run into problems which could have been prevented by better enterprise risk management and where we see no evidence that adequate corrective action has been taken, USS will engage with that company to encourage the board to better manage the risks that it clearly faces,” said Jason Fletcher, Americas Equities Manager of the UK University Superannuation Scheme Ltd.

The letter also raised concerns over the circumstances surrounding the recent resignation of Wal-Mart Vice Chairman Thomas Coughlin, who allegedly abused his expense account with up to $500,000 in questionable transactions over a five-year period, and Coughlin's admission that he filed false invoices to obtain reimbursements for anti-union activities.

Wal-Mart's firing of the whistleblower who reported Mr. Coughlin's questionable transactions also was raised.

“Employees who fear for their jobs won't report wrongdoing,” said Karina Litvack, Head of Governance &SRI for global asset manager F&C, which manages $230 billion. “By firing a key Coughlin whistleblower, Wal-Mart may have struck a deathblow to its own compliance system, further weakening its internal controls at a time when it should be aggressively fortifying them. Independent directors need to demonstrate to shareholders that Wal-Mart hasn't built an ostrich culture – where employees are better off sticking their heads in the sand than speaking up.”

Thursday, June 02, 2005

NYTimes Article: Taking On a Giant (Whistleblowers Welcome)

The producer and director of "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" has a new target: Wal-Mart.
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Taking On a Giant (Whistleblowers Welcome)
By DAVID M. HALBFINGER

LOS ANGELES, May 31 - He's taken on the Bush administration, the war in Iraq and the Fox News Channel. He's forged alliances with grass-roots liberal groups like MoveOn.org, liberal research groups, even liberal churches.

Yet Robert Greenwald, the producer and director of "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," thinks his next documentary-cum-indictment will appeal to gun-toting Bush voters in the Bible belt as much as to the latte-drinking lefties who made his last movie a hit at house parties on both coasts.

His new project? "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price."

The diminutive Mr. Greenwald, 61, is leading this assault on the retailing behemoth of Bentonville, Ark., from a converted hot-sheets motel in Culver City, Calif. There, where MGM executives once conducted their trysts, he and a dozen or so young producers and editors are compiling digital video from interviewing teams across the country, while spreading the word through advocacy groups and labor unions to invite whistleblowers to come forward.

Their plan is to depict what they and a growing number of critics perceive to be Wal-Mart's sins against society: unfair competition and erosion of the fabric of communities; exploitation of its American workers, and of the government welfare programs many rely on to supplement their wages and benefits; union busting; reliance on suppliers with sweatshops overseas; and environmental negligence - among others.

They also intend to show how the retailer exerts its outsized influence on American culture through the so-called "Wal-Mart effect," by limiting the choices of products like clothing, music - and movies - that are available to consumers.

"Nobody else has a million and a half workers, nobody has 3,500 stores and one opening every day," Mr. Greenwald said. "You may say: I don't care, I don't shop at Wal-Mart, why should it affect me? Well it will, because it'll affect wages, it'll affect health care, it'll affect where your tax dollars go. There are so many impacts it has on all of us as citizens."

A Wal-Mart spokeswoman, Sarah Clark, whose responsibilities include "reputation management," said she was unaware of Mr. Greenwald or his movie until she was contacted for this article. She noted later that a campaign against Wal-Mart affiliated with the grocery workers' union, which has tried for years to organize Wal-Mart workers, was promoting Mr. Greenwald's film project on the Web.

"It would be difficult to comment on a film we haven't seen, but we'd question the fairness of a documentary that is being tied to the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign," she said. "Some of our critics are open-minded people who are genuinely concerned about issues and want to make the world a better place. We listen, learn and try to work with them toward common goals. Other groups simply pull publicity stunts to further their own narrow self-interest."

Mr. Greenwald is hardly the first to look for a dark side to the company that has become known to millions as a cheap source of staples and minor luxuries. Last November PBS's "Frontline" series showed "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?," a 60-minute program produced by Rick Young and Hedrick Smith, a former correspondent for The New York Times. And last year The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for a series that investigated the retailer's practices and policies.

Yet Mr. Greenwald, like his fellow muckraking documentarians Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, promises to up the ante by putting the quest for impact squarely ahead of journalistic convention. He said he chose to discuss his project - which has until now operated in secret - on the eve of the company's annual shareholders meeting this Friday, for instance, in hopes of kicking up as much dust there as possible.

Asked whether his documentary would strive for fairness, Mr. Greenwald said he would offer top Wal-Mart executives the chance to be interviewed but did not see a reason to give them equal screen time. "I don't feel an obligation, because they are spending $2 million a day now telling their side of the story," he said, asserting that Wal-Mart spent that much on public relations.

Mr. Greenwald, who kept "Outfoxed" secret from the Fox network until just before its release, said he had kept his Wal-Mart project under wraps until now, and would not reveal details about his project until it is finished in a few months, lest Wal-Mart try to interfere through litigation or by intimidating workers from cooperating.

Ms. Clark, the Wal-Mart representative, said the project's secrecy was a reason to doubt its credibility. "We'd question anyone who was writing a book who would not come to us and ask us for our own facts," she said. "And I'd certainly question the accuracy or the fairness of a documentary that didn't even contact us."

Mr. Greenwald said that some 15 current Wal-Mart workers who agreed to help had backed out for fear of retaliation by the company, ignoring his promises of anonymity in exchange for interviews or incriminating documents, videotape or e-mail messages.

He added that he had lost two investors in the project, both of them Hollywood figures who Mr. Greenwald said backed out rather than risk Wal-Mart's rejection of their other films, as the company is the world's largest DVD retailer. But he refused to name them or any other investors, saying only that he had so far raised $700,000 out of a budget of about $1.6 million. He said he would raise the rest by the same means he hopes to distribute his finished movie: through a series of partnerships with like-minded organizations and by marketing over the Web.

Mr. Greenwald did this successfully with his documentary "Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War," for which the Center for American Progress, a Democratic research group, held press screenings in Washington, and which MoveOn.org advertised on its Web site for $29.95. This time, he has aligned with church groups, including the United Church of Christ, which is concentrated in the Northeast, Midwest and West; with the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, a trade group of gas station and convenience store operators; and with the National Education Association. Each for its own reasons had already set its sights on Wal-Mart, but now they are planning to screen Mr. Greenwald's movie in church sanctuaries, at school teach-ins and in the living rooms of small-business owners.

Mr. Greenwald, who has another, more profit-oriented life as a maker of television movies like "The Burning Bed" and theatrical films like "Steal This Movie," acknowledges that he has mainly preached to a partisan choir in his earlier documentaries, "Uncovered" and "Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election," which he directed, and "Unconstitutional: The War on Our Civil Liberties," which he produced.

But he said he chose Wal-Mart as his next subject because he saw it as a mainly red-state company. And in thinking about how to appeal to a red-state audience, he said in an interview, he realized this could be a way to make common cause with the socially conservative base of the Republican Party.

"The social values people - I think the economic issues that we're talking about absolutely are in sync with them," he said. "To me, it's an anomaly or a contradiction that some of these folks are voting against their economic self-interest. But in the Wal-Mart fight, we're seeing that whether you voted for Bush or have an N.R.A. hat, or are all your life Republican, when Wal-Mart comes to town, they build or drive you out of business, or your neighbor, or they put a road where it used to be your front yard - that's an equalizer."

Anti Wal-Mart T-Shirt Design Contest

Melissa Ebertz of the Parsons School of Design (NY) is hosting an anti Wal-Mart T-shirt design contest. Visitors to the site can vote on their favourite design or create their own. The three most popular designs will be available for purchase, with proceeds going to Wal-Mart Watch.