Watching Walmart

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

(Jan 2)Friday’s Wall Street Journal reported that Wal-Mart “is planning to monitor subcontractors’ U.S. warehouses, in the same way it tries to police conditions at suppliers’ factories around the globe.”

For the more than half-million Americans who work in warehouses like those that supply Wal-Mart—the Labor Department puts their number at 672,000—this is modestly good news. As the Prospect has been reporting since 2009, Wal-Mart and America’s other discount retailers don’t employ their warehouse workers directly. In the Ontario-Fontana exurbs of Los Angeles, where half the imports that come into the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors are trucked to be unloaded, arranged on pallets, and retrucked to Wal-Mart and kindred stores for a thousand miles around, the warehouses themselves are owned by property management companies, and they’re run by logistics companies with which Wal-Mart and other retailers contract. But the logistics companies aren’t the workers’ employers of record. Rather, some 270 temporary employment agencies in the areas are the workers’ legal employers. Some of the workers I interviewed had gone through dozens of such employers, even though they had worked at the same job in the same warehouse for more than a decade.

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Walmart’s CEO says ‘we will not buy from an unsafe factory.’ Walmart’s CEO lies

by Laura Clawson

Walmart_2_croppedWalmart CEO Michael Duke recently had this to say to the Council on Foreign Relations:

“We will not buy from an unsafe factory,” Mr. Duke told the audience. “If a factory is not going to operate with high standards, then we would not purchase from that factory.”

There’s one huge problem with that: It’s not true. Walmart demonstrably does buy from unsafe factories, it’s just that when things go wrong it tries to deny that it knew it was buying from them. And its entire system of supposedly monitoring and preventing unsafe conditions is a sham, as Steven Greenhouse and Jim Yardley detail. At the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh where more than 100 workers died in a November fire:

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Southern California Warehouse Workers Announce 2nd Strike

Workers Call for an End to Chilling Retaliation at Warehouse that Moves Walmart Goods

Warehouse Workers United

 RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Warehouse workers vowed to walk off the job this week if retaliation at a Walmart-contracted warehouse does not end. They plan to hold a rally and picket line Thursday morning in Mira Loma, California.

“I was fired for trying to make the warehouse where I worked safer,” said David Garcia, a warehouse worker. “It’s been tough. My kids need food, school supplies and an apartment to sleep at night, but right now it is difficult to provide them these basic things.”

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