Are you old enough to remember when Wal-Mart was proud of their “Made in the USA” products? They actually used to use this in their advertisements. It was their “Buy American” campaign of the early 80s, which was abandoned in 1985. It seemed like they cared at that time; what happened to Wal-Mart? Why don’t they care about America or Americans these days?
Today when you buy products in their stores you will have a very hard time finding any of them that were “Made in the USA” and you will easily find most of them “Made in China” instead. What are the consequences of this? Yes, you can get the cheapest products around, but at what cost really? Are you saving? Or are you losing in the long run? Are you selling the future of American to save a few bucks?
The impact of Wal-Mart is far-reaching, but not unstoppable. They have been a big part of the recent China recalls, since most of their products do originate from there. There needs to be changes made, and made soon. If Americans do not stand up and demand changes now, it may be too late. This is not the Wal-Mart of Sam Walton’s dream.
Wal-Mart and China
In 2004 Wal-Mart eagerly purchased $18 billion dollars of products from China. In 2005 they were responsible for one tenth of the trade deficit of the United States. Many of the so-called American suppliers to Wal-Mart actually produce their goods in China. Two of these companies are Hasbro and Mattel.
In 2005 Chinese Wal-Mart clothing workers filled a class action suit against the organization claiming they were not allowed to take holidays off, did not receive the legal required wage, and were forced to work overtime. The workers pay was held for three months when they started, and they were not paid at all, if they quit. Other workers at a Wal-Mart Chinese toy-making company had to reach a daily quota (painting 8,900 toy pieces) in an eight-hour period to be paid $3.45 a day, which is their stated wage. If they did not, they would only be paid $1.23 for the day.
Wal-Mart claims to have a factory inspection program, but in 2004 only 8 percent of these inspections was unannounced. Other Chinese worker incidents take into account claims of workers being beaten by managers, no overtime pay, workers locked in factories, forced 24 hour shifts, forced pregnancy tests, pat downs, extreme heat, and other violations of labor laws.
The Dangers of Wal-Mart Imports
The majority of all products sold at Wal-Mart, including the food products, is imported from overseas and most is from China. Not only does this cost Americans jobs, it also means unknown supply sources, looser regulations, and less oversight.
The recent trend of recalls of China made goods sold by them demonstrates the immediate need for better regulations. From baby bibs, pet foods and treats, catfish, toys, peanut butter, and others, these imports need to be checked more. The exporters are aware that only around 1% of foodstuffs are tested by the FDA.
Wal-Mart has lobbied against laws for better food safety practices and opposed mandatory food safety training for food workers. They also oppose Country of Origin Labeling, which would positively provide the customer the country name of the food products sold by them.
Working For Wal-Mart in America
Wal-Mart has been found ignoring U.S. labor laws. They have been found violating both federal and state regulations. The following are some of these violations:
Family Leave Laws – countless fines have been given to them from all over the nation for the violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act. They would fire employees that were on federally protected medical leaves.
Working Off-the-Clock – they were forced to pay 69,000 Colorado workers $50 million to settle a lawsuit after making the workers work off the clock. This is only one of numerous such settlements Wal-Mart has been made to pay.
Undocumented Workers Hired – in 2003 they had to pay an $11 million settlement when they were found to have employed hundreds of undocumented workers off the clock for store cleaning.
No Breaks Allowed – they were definitely found to not be in compliance of company policies concerning workers breaks in 2000.
Unsafe Conditions for Teen Employees – in 2005 Wal-Mart was found to have violated child labor laws by permitting 85 workers to be active in activities not allowed by minors.
Cost to Taxpayers for Assistance – United States taxpayers pays up to $2.5 billion a year for federally funded public assistance programs used by Wal-Mart employees because of their low wages.
Cost to Taxpayers for Healthcare – United States taxpayers have (so far) paid over $210 million from the lack of affordable healthcare provided by Wal-Mart to its employees.
Cost to Taxpayers for Subsidizing – it is common practice for Wal-Mart to request state and local subsidies.
What Can You Do?
Besides totally boycotting the stores or only buying American made products from them (if you can find them), you do have a few options to make changes to how Wal-Mart works and effects your community and life.
Wal-Mart Watch – they are located in Washington DC and were formed in 2005. It is a nationwide campaign that challenges Wal-Mart to become a better neighbor, employee, and corporate citizen. You can reach them online at: http://walmartwatch.com, or by calling: 202-557-7440.
WakeUpWalMart.com – another organization located in Washington DC that promotes change to Wal-Mart. You can reach them online at: http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/, or by calling them toll-free at: 1-866-253-1350.
Wal-Mart Movie – you can find information about the motion picture: Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price online at: http://www.walmartmovie.com/
Wal-Mart – you can contact Wal-Mart directly online at: http://walmartstores.com or by calling them at: 1-800-925-6278.
Now that you are more aware of the particular circumstances created by Wal-Mart, you should not sit back and take it. Join millions of other consumers who are demanding fair treatment, safe products, and more from them.