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February 14, 2005

More on Wal-Mart's Sweetheart Deal with the DOL

Following up on Jordan's post, here is a copy of the sweetheart deal negotiated by Wal-Mart with the DOL as sent out in email to district DOL offices (click for more readable version):

Here's why the deal smells like rotting corporate sludge:

1) The deal to let the Wal-Mart corporate office look at all minimum wage and overtime complaints was kept secret until the New York Times confronted DOL about it. There was no public announcement prior to this date, despite the fact that the DOL usually announces such compliance deals with great fanfare.

2) As far as anyone can tell, no Wal-Mart employees were informed of the compliance agreement, even though it had been implemented as early as January 10 (see the email).

3) While the headlines talk about child labor violations, the email is much broader and says any information on any fair labor standards violation investigation should be turned over to Wal-Mart.

4) Were Wal-Mart employees ever informed that their complaints about their employer to the DOL were just being passed off to Wal-Mart corporate headquarters in Arkansas? Giving Wal-Mart this information secretly is a recipe for employees to face retaliation. Notably, there is no instruction in the email to assure the confidentiality of the employees who might make a complaint.

5) If the DOL receives a complaint, do they just ask Wal-Mart to fix the problem for the individual worker? There is nothing in the directive that requires the DOL to investigate to make sure workers in similar jobs aren't suffering the same violations. And since the complaints are never made public, they may never hear they have the right to seek legal relief.

6) Wal-Mart agreed to pay $135,000 for nationwide violations, yet the state of Maine alone fined Wal-Mart $205,650 for child labor violations. The DOL fine was obviously chump change-- a lick, not even a slap on the wrist.

And there are just weird things about the timeline. The NY Times reports the deal was signed on January 6, but the AP reports it was signed on January 11. The email above was sent out on January 10. The DOL claims they were waiting 30 days to let Wal-Mart pay the fine, yet they didn't announce it until forced to by the NY Times investigation more than 30 days later.

This is one of the slimiest insider deals possible by one of the largest corporate donors to the GOP.

Update: Hill Democrats demand investigation into the Bush administation's sweetheart deal with Wal-Mart.

Posted by Nathan at February 14, 2005 12:56 AM