Wal-Mart, workers and brain-dead Babbitts

Some recent clips on one of the greatest enemies of working people.

If this keeps up, Wal-Mart may go down in history as the poster child for resurgent unionism in America. If so, thank you, Wal-Mart, for being such a loud, domineering, shrill, braggart, rapacious and ugly corporation that you have become a huge symbol for corporate harm to working people, even to the extent of creating sustained, militant labor resistance to the pain you have caused through almost every one of your policies.

Wal-Mart is no longer a business firm; it is pure matastasis of unregulated capitalist greed and political juice. It will stand as the domestic retail-business equivalent of the Iraq wars as the legacy of the Republican Reagan and Bushes regimes.

Wal-Mart's plans for Merced would bring nothing but harm to public health and safety. Yet it continues, with the connivance of Merced City officials and the enthusiastic, suicidal rantings of the chambers-of-commerce crowd.

If the history of this period is written, it will be mentioned that the road to the Hell of global warming, class warfare, and air that kills was paved by local land-use authorities who ignored the cumulative impacts of environmentally, economically and socially destructive projects demanded by the sheer, energetic stupidity of business interests, rendered brain-dead Babbitts by Republican and church-sanctified greed.

Bill Hatch

WakeUpWalMart.com Statement on Wal-Mart's Decision to Target Democrats in the 2006 Midterm Elections
WASHINGTON - October 13 - The following is a statement from WakeUpWalMart.com on Wal-Mart's decision to target Democrats in the 2006 midterm elections, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Today's Star Tribune reports, "The world's largest retailer is about to take the unusual step of distributing information about specific candidates to its 1.3 million employees nationwide, according to a company official. …Wal-Mart said it will specifically target local, state and national leaders who appeared this summer at a series of anti-Wal-Mart rallies organized by WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-backed group that has called on the retailer to offer workers better pay and benefits."
The following statement is attributable to Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com:
"Rather than embrace our positive vision for a better America, Wal-Mart has officially declared war on the Democratic Party, elected leaders, and every American who believes we should pay workers a living wage, provide affordable health care to all, protect American jobs and keep America safe.
Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, now reject President Bush's right-wing agenda that has brought us a culture of corruption, repeated scandals, shipped American jobs overseas and even jeopardized our national security, Wal-Mart is launching a political campaign to help keep President Bush in power by trying to defeat Democrats who called on Wal-Mart to be a more responsible employer.
From this day forward, no citizen, regardless of their party affiliation, should doubt how right-wing Wal-Mart's agenda really is. By opposing expanding health care to hard working families and their children, opposing a living wage of $10 per hour, lobbying to ship American jobs to China, and even lobbying against strengthening America's national security, Wal-Mart's agenda is extreme, misguided, and wrong for America. It is an agenda that no American could support, jeopardizes the future of our country, and is one of the key reasons why Wal-Mart's public image continues to collapse.
On behalf of the American people, we are not going to allow big corporations like Wal-Mart to take America in the wrong direction. In that spirit, WakeUpWalMart.com, with the help of 276,000 grassroots supporters, will be announcing a major new initiative next week that will make it clear to Wal-Mart and its right wing operatives that our movement will never stop fighting until the day Wal-Mart truly changes for the better.

Wal-Mart loses suit on work breaks...AP
Philadelphia - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. forced employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, violating Pennsylvania labor laws, a state jury found Thursday. The jury, however, ruled in Wal-Mart's favor on the claim that it denied workers meal breaks. The jury now must decide damages in the class-action suit, which covers as many as 187,000 current and former hourly Wal-Mart workers. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant is facing a slew of similar suits around the country. Wal-Mart settled a Colorado case for $50 million and was appealing a $172-million award handed out last year by a California jury. "This is the second [verdict]. With 56 more to go, I think it reinforces that this company's sweatshop mind-set is a serious problem, both legally and morally," said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com, a union-funded effort to improve working conditions at the stores.

Washington Post
Wal-Mart workers win wage suit...Amy Joyce
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing hourly employees to work through breaks and beyond their shifts without overtime pay, a jury decided yesterday. The lawsuit, brought by two employees on behalf of almost 187,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees, claimed that the company made workers in Pennsylvania miss more than 33 million rest breaks from 1998 to 2001. At least 57 other wage-and-hour cases have been filed across the United States against the world's largest retailer, and many of them are awaiting class-action certification, according to company filings. In court, the lawyers argued that the company denied breaks to cut labor costs and increase productivity. The case is one of several class-action wage-and-hour suits against the company to go to trial. In December, a jury awarded $172 million to about 116,000 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam's Club workers in California who claimed that they were illegally denied lunch breaks. Wal-Mart is appealing the verdict. In 2002, a federal jury in Oregon found that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work off the clock and awarded back pay to 83 workers. In 2004, Wal-Mart settled a similar lunch break case in Colorado for $50 million. One of the pending cases, which accuses the company of paying men more than women nationally, is the largest private employer civil rights class action in history. Wal-Mart has asked an appeals court to overturn the class-action status of the case.

New York Times
Jury says Wal-Mart must pay $78 million in damages...Reuters
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A Pennsylvania jury said on Friday that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, must pay $78.47 million in damages to current and former Pennsylvania employees for forcing them to work ``off the clock'' or during rest breaks. On Thursday, a state jury in Philadelphia found in favor of Michelle Braun and Dolores Hummel, formerly employed by Wal- Mart, saying the company violated Pennsylvania labor laws by failing to pay employees for the work. It awarded about $2.5 million for off-the-clock working and about $76 million for lost rest breaks between March of 1998 and May of 2006. The award was another blow to Wal-Mart's image, which has been tarnished by accusations by labor unions, politicians and others that it pays poverty-level wages and mistreats workers. Before deliberations began in Philadelphia's Court of Common Pleas, Donovan argued that Wal-Mart employees were forced to work through their breaks because the company wanted to maximize profits.``Wal-Mart doesn't understand anything but numbers,'' he said. ``In order for Wal-Mart to understand this, it needs to see numbers, big numbers. ''Neal Manne, an attorney for Wal-Mart, who asked the jury to award $287,000 for off-the- clock working and $6.65 million for missed rest breaks, argued that many employees had in fact taken breaks without swiping their ID cards to indicate they were on a break. In December, a California jury ruled that Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, should pay $172 million in damages and compensation to about 116,000 current and former employees for denying meal breaks. Plaintiffs in the 2001 California lawsuit claimed Wal-Mart had failed to pay hourly employees for missed or interrupted meal breaks.

City going wrong way...John S. Holmes, M.D., Merced...Letters to the editor
Valley only going to get hotter," Sept. 30, and "Work still needed on our air," Oct. 4...You correctly point out that our air quality is still bad and that global warming is looming as a huge problem in the near future. You also make the connection to automobiles and trucks as major culprits. What is so perplexing is why you have so much difficulty connecting the dots to the kinds of economic development Merced County is pursuing. The Riverside Motorsports Park and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center will only aggravate our air quality problems. The local air board has all but admitted we won't be able to meet the 2010 deadline for clean air. Economic development is important, but only within responsible parameters that protect the public health. Your editorial "Study underscores need for clean air," April 4, clearly shows the extent air pollution in the Valley is jeopardizing the public health. A free, independent press is essential for our democratic system to function properly by holding those in power accountable. It is past time for the editors to start connecting the dots on air quality issues.

City wants subdivision to build roads, fund fire station...Adam Ashton
Modesto released a draft environmental impact report Thursday for a development that would bring more than 3,200 homes and a regional commercial center to the city's northeast border...Tivoli...454-acre project backed in part by Modesto real estate magnate Mike Zagaris...the city expects Tivoli's backers to cut checks for everything from widening roads to wetlands preservation. As is, Tivoli requires a zoning change because the area's land-use designations would limit the project to about 900 fewer homes. The city's zoning restrictions also would permit less space for commercial development. The initial environmental report urges city leaders to require that developers: Set aside money for farmland preservation by contributing to an agricultural resource fund. Designate land for a new fire station and give the city money to build it. Pay their share of a series of road improvements, including projects to extend and widen Claratina Avenue, expand three McHenry Avenue intersections and add lanes to Briggsmore Avenue.
Take steps to limit air pollution during construction by refraining from idling trucks, using new technology and building wind barriers. Encourage alternative transportation options by installing bike lanes and reserving space for bus routes. Dig two new wells to maintain water pressure. People have 45 days to comment on the environmental report before the city begins revising it.