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March 18, 2005

House Dems Rip into Chao on Wal-Mart

Congresswoman Rosa Delauro, whose district included two of the stores involved in Wal-Mart's sweetheart deal with the Department of Labor, dressed down Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao yesterday at hearings before the House:

“When the safety of children is at stake, I fail to understand how the Department of Labor could believe a fine equivalent to what Wal-Mart generates every 15 seconds would have any impact whatsoever...This settlement put the interests of one of the nation’s labor laws violators ahead of the protection of children. I intend to learn why.”
The House Democrats also produced a new Q&A on the Wal-Mart deal, emphasizing how special Wal-Mart's treatment really was. A few highlights:
Question: Does the advance notice provision apply only to child labor violations?

Answer: No. A review of the Wal-Mart agreement reveals that, while much of the agreement deals with particular issues related to child labor, the most critical provision of the agreement - the 15-day advance notice plus the 10-business-day abatement period - is worded to avoid using the words "child labor."...The fact that the Department of Labor failed to inform its own investigators that the compliance agreement was limited to child labor violations disproves the Assistant Secretary's subsequent assertion.
Question: Is the Wal-Mart agreement typical?

Answer: No. The Wal-Mart agreement is not typical. The Labor Department has cited agreements with Sears and Foot Locker as "similar" agreements, and later an agreement with Genesis Health Ventures as a similar agreement. A review of those agreements found major differences in critical provisions...the advance notice to Wal-Mart applies to ANY store. The advance notice to Sears and Foot Locker was limited to a small number of stores that fit into a particular set of circumstances...the Wal-Mart agreement gives the company a 10-business-day abatement period to bring the store into compliance following a DOL finding of a violation. There is no abatement period in the Sears and Foot Locker agreements.
Question: Should the DOL be so trusting of Wal-Mart when it comes to tampering with evidence?

Answer: While the law certainly forbids destruction of evidence, that is no reason for a law enforcement agency to give anyone an opportunity to destroy evidence. In fact, Wal-Mart is infamous for repeated sanctions from courts for destroying or hiding evidence.

There's a lot more. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Nathan at March 18, 2005 05:23 AM