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2006-04-07
San Francisco, CA. Investor Groups Say Wal-Mart Violates Labor Laws

A group of American and Canadian socially-concerned and faith-based shareholders of Wal-Mart stock -- led by the As You Sow Foundation -- are charging that the giant retailer intimidates its workers who attempt to freely associate and organize into unions. The group has written to Wal-Mart saying that the company has "established a track record opposing union drives in a manner that is inconsistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, core international Labor Organization standards, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises." The investors note that "further and more troubling from a shareholder perspective, such actions by Wal-Mart could constitute violations of labor law in the United States and Canada." "We believe the time has come to focus investor concern on the labor practices of Wal-Mart," explained Conrad MacKerron, head of the Corporate Social Responsibility Program at As You Sow. Citing Wal-Mart's well-publicized use of sweatshops in Third World countries, MacKerron added, "Wal-Mart's poor track record on freedom of association at its North American stores shows we also need to pay attention to the rights of workers closer to home." Wal-Mart has been accused of harassing workers, spying on them, firing them, intimidating them, and using unfair labor practices to keep them from organizing for better pay and benefits. Between 1998 and 2003, a total of 288 unfair labor practice complaints were filed by the National Labor Relations Board, according to a study by the American Rights At Work project. The As You Sow Foundation has filed a shareholder proposal with Wal-Mart asking the company to establish a policy that forbids all intimidation of company employees who attempt to use their right freedom of association. "The right of an employee to organize without fear of intimidation or reprisal is a basic right endorsed by the vast majority of U.S. companies in theory and practice," said the group Walden Asset Management, another investor group that signed onto the letter. "In light of the wave of criticism Wal-Mart has faced, it is in its interest as well as Wal-Mart's shareholders' interest to declare that the company will fully respect the right of employees to organize and operate accordingly."

What you can do: Every spring Wal-Mart faces a list of shareholder's resolutions for its annual meeting, that every year are rejected by Wal-Mart management, at the behest of the Walton family itself, the major shareholder. The Waltons apparently have no trouble with how the company deals with issues like freedom of association. They must interpret the law to mean they have the freedom to keep workers from associating. Other signatories on this letter include The Ethical Funds, Trillium Asset Management, Harrington Investments, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Congregation Sisters of St. Agnes, the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, the Adrian Dominican Sisters, and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia. For earlier stories on shareholder activism against Wal-Mart, search Newsflash by "shareholder". We don't imagine this is what President Bush had in mind when he described "faith-based initiatives."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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