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2001-05-13
Apopa, El Salvador.Wal-Mart Audits 7,000 factories

On June 1, 2001, Wal-Mart stockholders will gather at Bud Walton Arena at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. On the agenda is a Shareholder's Proposal submitted by the The United Methodist Church Pension Fund, based in Evanston, Illinois. The UMC resolution asks the Wal-Mart Board of Directors to prepare a report describing Wal-Mart's actions "to ensure that it does not purchase from suppliers who manufacture items using forced labor, convict labor, or child labor, or who fail to comply with fundamental workplace rights protecting their employee's wages, benefits, working conditions, freedom of association, collective bargaining, and other rights." Wal-Mart opposes this proposal, and says that for the past 9 years it has required its suppliers to meet a "Factory Certification" program. Wal-Mart says it has hired an "agent", Pacific Resources Export Limited to conduct "third party audits" for all the factories producing Wal-Mart goods. Wal-Mart claims its "agents" conducted 7,000 audits during the year 2000. These audits grade factories on a 5 level system from Pass to Fail, and any factory that has been denied certification will be dropped by Wal-Mart."The company is proud of its factory inspection program and believes that much good has been accomplished through its program." A new report from the National Labor Committee suggests that "much good" is still left to do. According to the NLC, for example, the Chi Fung factory in Apopa, El Salvador, run by its Taiwanese owners, employees 1,600 workers making Nike sports apparel. Workers there earn 25 cents to make an NBA Nike shirt that sells for $140. The workers undergo forced pregnancy tests, are forced to work overtime without pay, drink filthy water, work under surveillance cameras, cannot form a union, and are screamed at and cursed to work faster. In October of 2000, Wal-Mart received 76 tons of clothing shipped from the Chi Fung factory.

What you can do: Although I own one share of stock in Wal-Mart, I won't be traveling to Bud Walton Arena this year. But I did vote in favor of the UMC sweatshop resolution. I have the feeling, however, that this stockholder proposal, as with others submitted every year, will go down in defeat since the Walton family controls most of the voting stock in the company. Maybe Pacific Resources Export Limited didn't get around to auditing Chi Fung factory this year, but one has to wonder about this system of "third party audits". If October, 2000 was a typical month, it means Wal-Mart is importing more than 900 tons of clothing from this one factory alone in El Salvador. The NLC has appropriately labeled this kind of sweatship clothing, "shirts of misery." For more information on sweatshop labor, to to www.nlcnet.org










 
 
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