Taking Heat for Sweatshops
Last week, we noted that Wal-Mart was fighting hard to get away with firing whistleblowers. This weekend, the Associated Press reported that James W. Lynn, of Searcy, Arkansas, is suing the company for just that, charging that he was fired for reporting poor working conditions at Wal-Mart's offices in Honduras and Guatemala. Lynn, who was Wal-Mart's global services manager until his 2002 firing, charges that Moon Chung, the retailer's general manager in Honduras, pressured employees to sanitize internal reports on supplier factory conditions. Lynn also saw serious abuses in Honduran factories making Wal-Mart goods: violations of local wage and hour laws, lack of bathrooms and drinking water and padlocked fire exits. When he told his superiors in Arkansas about these problems, Lynn says, he was fired. Guess Wal-Mart's keeping Baby Scalia busy!
Lynn's lawsuit comes at a time when Wal-Mart is feeling some well-deserved heat for its gross exploitation of the workers--mostly young women--making its cheap products. Last week, Dateline ran an excellent hidden-camera report on the conditions endured by workers in Bangladesh who sew the stripes onto $13 pants sold at Wal-Mart, finding they worked eighteen-hour days and were physically and verbally abused by factory bosses and cheated out of overtime pay. The National Labor Committee, which helped with Dateline's investigation, is demanding that Wal-Mart pay garment workers 20 cents more per garment--the amount these women say would allow them to live decently and provide for their families. Click here to find out what you can do.
No matter where they fall in the supply chain, workers are angry at Wal-Mart. On June 24, employees in some Asda distribution centers in Britain--which are owned by Wal-Mart--will go on strike over pay and work conditions and over threatened layoffs affecting roughly 300 workers.