wal-mart news

Join us in calling on Walmart to demand a stop to attacks on garment worker leaders in Bangladesh.

Two weeks ago we wrote http://blog.wakeupwalmart.com/ufcw/2010/08/bengali-poverty.html about the conditions under which garment workers in Bangladesh struggled, often making as little as 11.5 cents per hour. Last week these workers began to protest when the wage increases they were seeking fell short of their demands.

The government of Bangladesh, under pressure from manufacturers, has begun systematically attacking worker rights groups, especially targeting the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity (BCWS)

BCWS's assets have been frozen by the government, and one of their leaders was detained and beaten by authorities.

BCWS leaders in Bangladesh are reporting persecution from manufacturers and the government. One manufacturer in particular, Nassa Global Wear, has filed suit against BCWS. The owners of Nassa, who are former high-ranking military officers, may have used their political power to pressure the government to arrest BCWS leaders. Walmart is Nassa's largest customer, purchasing an estimated 80% of the production of the company. As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has enormous bargaining power and influence over the way their suppliers do business.

Walmart has written a letter to Nassa asking them to stop their worker crackdown, but they could use their influence much more powerfully than by just writing a letter. One phone call from Walmart--either to Nassa officials or to Bangladeshi government officials--could make these human rights abuses stop.

Please join us in calling on Walmart to use the full weight of their influence to push Nassa Global Wear to stop its assaults on workers' rights.

Send your support HERE

For Walmart, Black Friday has become synonymous with the tragic death of Jdimytai Damour: the Walmart worker trampled by an ill-managed "doorbuster" crowd at a Long Island Walmart. After a barrage of criticism following the stampede, Walmart characterized the tragedy as a singular "incident." Now, the truth is coming out.

According to Newsday, Damour's Walmart faced a similar stampede in 2007. A Black Friday crowd pushed the store's front door off its hinges before trampling fallen customers. The same article also covers a damning sworn statement by a local Walmart employee. During the Black Friday 2008 investigation, he noted, "I was there, like in past years, to help people up as they fall coming in the doors."

Looking back, the 2008 Black Friday stampede appears to have been a predictable annual affair. Walmart failed to adequately prepare for it. Mr. Damour died because of it.

You can play a part in keeping this year's Black Friday free of disasters like that which claimed the life of Jdimytai Damour. Join our online campaign to alert holiday shoppers and keep tabs on Walmart's handling of Black Friday crowds.

Spread the word to holiday shoppers: hold Walmart accountable for store safety on Black Friday.

Black Friday is likely to be bigger than ever in 2009. Polls suggest the possibility of a near 25% increase in participation this year over last. This, in concert with Walmart's aggressive promotion of holiday sales, will almost assuredly generate massive crowds this Friday.

If Walmart couldn't anticipate the Long Island tragedy, we can't rely on it to handle record crowds this year. We know Walmart has splurged on advertising, but we need your help to ensure it doesn't skimp on security.

Join our campaign for a safer Black Friday: ask holiday shoppers to tell their story about crowds spotted at Walmart stores, send us photos, and spread the word.

Help us hold Walmart to a higher standard of safety during this year's Black Friday blitz

Ogera Charles, Jdimytai Damour's father, has a simple request this year: that "the company and shoppers will do whatever is needed to prevent a repeat of last year's disaster." Our hopes are the same. In that spirit, please join us in promoting safety and accountability during Walmart's Black Friday events.

Thank you for all that you do, and please enjoy a safe holiday weekend.

wal-mart bank

Last year, we won an important victory when Wal-Mart withdrew its application for an ILC (Industrial Loan Corporation) bank, which is a way for a non-banking company such as a retailer to operate a bank. Then, the mere idea of a Wal-Mart Bank provoked an unprecedented backlash. When the dust settled, the chances of a Wal-Mart Bank seemed like a remote possibility. Unfortunately, it isn't. The FDIC moratorium on corporate industrial bank charters has expired. Today, there is nothing keeping Wal-Mart from pursuing a special ILC bank that would operate with little government oversight and dangerously blur the line between commerce and banking. Commercially owned banks will have an incentive to steer credit away from competitors and towards favored clients. Additionally, if a commercial company that owns a bank fails, it may put the bank and FDIC insurance funds at risk.

Until the loophole allowing for ILCs is closed for good, corporations like Wal-Mart will continue to pose a threat to America's banking industry. Senator Chris Dodd has proposed a piece of legislation that will patch the defect in our banking policy, but the bill is bogged down in a partisan debate. Unless we all act now, the bill may not even make it to the floor for a vote.

We need your help in getting this vital legislation through the Senate. Write your Senators today and tel them to take a stand for sound banking policy. Together, we can keep Wal-Mart out of the American banking industry.

Stop the Wal-Mart Bank: Write a letter to your Senators today

Wal-Mart already has a history of unfair financial dealings. Last November, Wal-Mart de Mexico opened the first of a string of in-store Wal-Mart banks. Today, those branches prey on poor and under-served customers, offering predatory loans with outrageous 75% interest rates.

In America, Wal-Mart pushes credit cards that downplay absurd 25% APRs and pre-paid Visas chock-full of hidden fees. In 2006, while Wal-Mart pursued an American ILC, it went so far as to lie under oath while giving testimony to FDIC regulators.

Clearly, the facts speak for themselves. We can't allow an irresponsible corporation like Wal-Mart to threaten our nation's banking industry. Please, take action today—tell your Senators to take a stand for consumers and for responsible banking.

Write your Senators in support of Senator Dodd's bill

Impact of Big-Box Stores on Existing Jobs

Big-box stores are not a form of economic development. A newly constructed super- store cannot increase the amount of money that local residents have to spend. As a result, sales gains at these stores are invariably mirrored by an equivalent drop in revenue at existing businesses.

Fewer Retail jobs

As these businesses are forced to down- size or close, the resulting job losses typically equal or exceed the number of new jobs created by the big-box store. This was recently shown in a large-scale study con- ducted by researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California. The study examined 3,094 counties across the U.S., tracking the arrival of Wal-Mart stores betwee 1977 and 2002.

The study found that the opening of a Wal-Mart store led to a net loss of 180 retail jobs on average, suggesting that each Wal-Mart employee replaces approximately 1.5 workers at other stores. (David Neumark, Junfu Zhang, and Stephen Ciccarella, "The Effects of Wal-Mart on Local Labor Markets," working paper, Public Policy Institute of California, April 2006)

Although similar studies have not been done of other big-box retailers, they likely also have a negative impact on employment, because the underlying dynamics (i.e., no increase in consumer spending) are the same.

Working Poverty

In their drive to cut costs, big-box chains are pushing down wages for retail workers. A national study found that, in counties that are part of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (which account for nearly 85% of the U.S. population), every additional Wal-Mart store that opens reduces total earnings for retail workers by 1.3%. (Arindrajit Dube, Barry Eidlin, and Bill Lester, "Impact of Wal-Mart Growth on Earnings through-out the Retail Sector in Urban and Rural Counties," Institute of Industrial Relations Working Paper Series, 2005)

180 Jobs Lost:

Net Impact When Wal-Mart Opens

Many big-box employees, even those who work full-time, do not earn enough to meet basic living expenses. Many also lack health insurance as they are not eligible for or cannot afford the company plan. At Wal-Mart, for example, full-time employees must wait six months and part-timers one year to qualify, leaving almost 40 per- cent of the company's workforce ineligible. Of those who are eligible, about one-third do not enroll, in many cases because of the high out-of-pocket cost.

Instead, large numbers of big-box employees rely on Medicaid, food stamps, and other public assistance programs to get by. Several states have reported that their Medicaid rolls are now swollen with superstore workers. In 2005, for example, Massachusetts disclosed that some 9,500 Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Target employees and dependents were receiving publicly-funded health care at an annual cost to taxpayers of over $12 million.

Perhaps most disturbing, researchers at Penn State University, after controlling for other factors that influence poverty, found that counties that gained Wal-Mart stores during the I 990s fared worse in terms of family poverty rates than those that did not. (Stephan Goetz and Hema Swamina- than, "Wal-Mart and County-Wide Poverty," Penn State University, Oct. 2004.)

Despite substantial evidence that big- box stores reduce employment and lower wages, many local officials still believe these stores are job creators. The myth persists in part because job gains are very visible-the 300 people donning smocks at Wal-Mart while the layoffs are usually scattered across numerous businesses.

Locally Owned vs. Chain: The Local Premium

Trading independent retailers for big-box chains weakens the local economy. This is because local stores recycle a much larger share of their sales revenue back into the local economy, while chains siphon most of the dollars spent at their stores out of the community, funneling them back to corporate headquarters or to distant suppliers.

The added economic benefit of local stores has been dubbed the "local premium...' Several studies have quantified it.

One was conducted in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood by the firm Civic Economics. The study analyzed ten locally owned restaurants, retail stores, and service providers and compared them with ten national chains competing in the same categories. The study found that spending $100 at one of the neighborhood's independent businesses created $68 in additional local economic activity, while spending $100 at a chain produced only $43 worth of local impact. The difference was due to four factors:

Big-box stores function like colonizers: they siphon dollars out of the local economy. Meanwhile, every time you make a purchase at a locally owned store, it sends a ripple of economic benefits through the community.

Local Payroll - The locally owned businesses spent a larger share of their revenue on local labor (29 vs. 23 percent), be- cause they carried out all management functions on-site, rather than at corporate headquarters.

Procurement - The local retailers spent more than twice as much buying goods and services from other local businesses. They banked locally; hired local accountants, attorneys, designers, and other professionals; advertised in local media; and sourced inventory from local firms.

Profits - Because their owners live in the area, a larger portion of the local retailers' profits stayed within the local economy.

Charitable giving - The local retailers donated more on average to local charities and community organizations than the chains did.

Added dollars circulating in the local economy translate into a larger number and wider variety of available jobs.

The implications of the local premium for how cities approach economic development are significant. Not only do big-box stores eliminate more retail jobs than they create (see our fact-sheet, Impact of Big- Box Stores on Existing jobs), but they reduce local economic activity and job creation in other sectors. Conversely, expanding local businesses generates substantially greater economic benefits.

Walmart workers are losing ground in the workplace and America needs to know.

Today, a new mini-documentary was released by Walmart Workers for Change. In it, real Walmart associates speak out against the poverty wages, unaffordable healthcare, and employee intimidation that have become "normal" at Walmart.

These brave Walmart workers have stood up to the most powerful retailer in America for one reason--they have seen the way Walmart works and believe something has to change. After you watch their mini-documentary, we know you will agree with them.

Today, we are asking you to support this new cause. Already, thousands of Walmart employees have joined Walmart Workers for Change. They're fighting for better wages, better healthcare, and representation in the workplace. But, they can not win their fight for a better workplace unless America gets to know the real Walmart. For that, they need you.

Let these Walmart associates know you've got their backs. Watch the new mini-documentary, send it to your friends, and Add your signature to the growing list of Walmart activists who support rights in the workplace for hard working Walmart employees.

Help spread the new mini-documentary: show your support for American Walmart workers

Walmart Workers for Change is fighting for a new law before Congress that would give 1.4 million Walmart workers a real chance for representation in the workplace, without the company's usual threats and harassment. We've joined with them to spread the word about the Employee Free Choice Act and the promise it holds for American Walmart workers.

For years, Walmart's anti-union drives have exploited America's soft labor laws, often breaking the outright. The results of these anti-worker policies are clear -- stagnating wages, sub-par benefits and an increasingly unfriendly workplace. All at a time when Walmart and the Walton family are benefiting from the sagging economy and making record profits.

Workers need a process that will guarantee their right to a voice in the workplace. They need to know that when a majority of their coworkers want to exercise their right to representation, they will get it. They need guaranteed contracts and tough penalties when Bentonville illegally intimidates and harasses them. Walmart workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.

Most of all, Walmart workers need you. Let America know that you support the mission of Walmart Workers for Change. Watch their new documentary and tell your friends.

Put Walmart workers back in the middle class: Watch the mini-documentary and sign the petition today.

It's time America met the real Walmart. Take action today.

Brain-damaged woman at center of Wal-Mart suit

JACKSON, Missouri (CNN) -- Debbie Shank breaks down in tears every time she's told that her 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq.

The 52-year-old mother of three attended her son's funeral, but she continues to ask how he's doing. When her family reminds her that he's dead, she weeps as if hearing the news for the first time.

Shank suffered severe brain damage after a traffic accident nearly eight years ago that robbed her of much of her short-term memory and left her in a wheelchair and living in a nursing home.

It was the beginning of a serie of battles -- both personal and legal -- that loomed for Shank and her family. One of their biggest was with Wal-Mart's health plan.

Eight years ago, Shank was stocking shelves for the retail giant and signed up for Wal-Mart's health and benefits plan.

Two years after the accident, Shank and her husband, Jim, were awarded about $1 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company involved in the crash. After legal fees were paid, $417,000 was placed in a trust to pay for Debbie Shank's long-term care.

Wal-Mart had paid out about $470,000 for Shank's medical expenses and later sued for the same amount. However, the court ruled it can only recoup what is left in the family's trust.

The Shanks didn't notice in the fine print of Wal-Mart's health plan policy that the company has the right to recoup medical expenses if an employee collects damages in a lawsuit.

The family's attorney, Maurice Graham, said he informed Wal-Mart about the settlement and believed the Shanks would be allowed to keep the money.

"We assumed after three years, they [Wal-Mart] had made a decision to let Debbie Shank use this money for what it was intended to," Graham said.

The Shanks lost their suit to Wal-Mart. Last summer, the couple appealed the ruling -- but also lost it. One week later, their son was killed in Iraq.

"They are quite within their rights. But I just wonder if they need it that bad," Jim Shank said.

In 2007, the retail giant reported net sales in the third quarter of $90 billion.

Legal or not, CNN asked Wal-Mart why the company pursued the money.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley, who called Debbie Shank's case "unbelievably sad," replied in a statement: "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. ... We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan."

Jim Shank said he believes Wal-Mart should make an exception.

"My idea of a win-win is -- you keep the paperwork that says you won and let us keep the money so I can take care of my wife," he said.

The family's situation is so dire that last year Jim Shank divorced Debbie, so she could receive more money from Medicaid.

Jim Shank, 54, is recovering from prostate cancer, works two jobs and struggles to pay the bills. He's afraid he won't be able to send their youngest son to college and pay for his and Debbie's care.

"Who needs the money more? A disabled lady in a wheelchair with no future, whatsoever, or does Wal-Mart need $90 billion, plus $200,000?" he asked.

The family's attorney agrees.

"The recovery that Debbie Shank made was recovery for future lost earnings, for her pain and suffering," Graham said.

"She'll never be able to work again. Never have a relationship with her husband or children again. The damage she recovered was for much more than just medical expenses."

Graham said he believes Wal-Mart should be entitled to only about $100,000. Right now, about $277,000 remains in the trust -- far short of the $470,000 Wal-Mart wants back.

Refusing to give up the fight, the Shanks appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But just last week, the high court said it would not hear the case.

Graham said the Shanks have exhausted all their resources and there's nothing they can do but go on with their lives.

Jim Shank said he's disappointed with the Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case -- not for the sake of his family -- but for those who might face similar circumstances.

For now, he said the family will figure out a way to get by and "do the best we can for Debbie."

"Luckily, she's oblivious to everything," he said. "We don't tell her what's going on because it will just upset her."

By Randi Kaye

WakeUp Wal-Mart

On April 5th, the WakeUpWalMart.com campaign will celebrate three years of making Wal-Mart a more responsible company. As you know, it's been a grueling fight for substantive change at Wal-Mart. And, for all of the movement's success, we still have one question for you.

Your tax dollars are still subsidizing Wal-Mart's health care crisis. Your good jobs are still being shipped overseas so Wal-Mart can import over 70% of its goods from communist China. Your neighbors are still earning poverty-level Wal-Mart wages so America's richest family can line their pockets with Wal-Mart's $12 billion in profits.

This year, we can't settle for anything less than real change from Wal-Mart. We know change won't come unless we work together to bring our campaign's message to new audiences in new ways. That's why we're launching the first in a series of new WakeUpWalMart.com videos: "Living Better. Please, do your part and pass it along.

Consider this a taste of the year to come. In the coming months, you will see a series of bold new videos from WakeUpWalMart.com, all with one mission--to introduce consumers to the real Wal-Mart.

Remember, we can't do that without your help. Supporters like you are the driving force behind the movement to change Wal-Mart. So, check out the video, and help us spread the word. Your action and our message can force Wal-Mart to change, and help forge a better America.

Why Wal-Mart Needs to Change

Leaving thousands of families and children without company health care

  • Wal-Mart fails to provide company health care to over 775,000 workers and their families. In fact, nearly lout of every 2 children of Wal-Mart workers are either uninsured or on public health care.

Costing taxpayers billions of dollars

  • Wal-Mart costs taxpayers as much as $1.4 billion a year, and is projected to cost $9.1 billion over the next five years, because so many Wal-Mart workers and their families are forced onto public health care.

Discriminating against women

  • Over 2 million women are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination. It's the largest discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history.

Violating child labor laws

  • Wal-Mart has broken child labor laws again and again. In fact, Wal-Mart refuses to adopt a zero tolerance policy to make sure children aren't exploited. For example, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,540 to settle child labor violation charges in January 2005 for allegedly breaking child labor laws in 24 incidents in Connecticut.

Paying poverty-level wages

  • Wal-Mart continues to pay poverty-level wages, forcing many of its workers to rely on public assistance programs. Wal-Mart admits its jobs are not designed to support a family.

Exploiting undocumented workers

  • In March 2005, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $11 million to settle federal allegations it used undocumented workers to clean its stores. Many of the janitors -from Mexico, Russia, Mongolia, Poland and a host of other nations -worked seven days or nights per week without overtime pay or injury compensation. Those who worked nights were often locked in the store until the morning - the workers described it as "virtual slavery" (Law.com, "Class Action Against Wal-Mart Picks Up," 2005).

Negatively impacting our communities

  • Studies in Iowa have shown that some small towns lose up to 47% of their retail trade after 10 years of a Wal-Mart store moving in nearby. Another recent study showed that when Wal-Mart moves into a community wages decline by 5% for all workers, not just retail.

What you can do

1. Sign-Up

Join our exciting movement to change Wal-Mart:


2. Adopt-A-Store

Become a local volunteer and help us build a local community group at every Wal-Mart store in America. Community groups meet once per month to take action to educate others about Wal-Mart's negative impact on our communities.

3. Tell Others

Call your friends and family and let them know why Wal-Mart needs to change and ask them to sign up.