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March 19, 2005

Wal-Mart Buys "Get Out of Jail" Card

Prosecutors announced they were dropping all criminal charges against Wal-Mart for its use of contractors employing undocumented workers in exchange for paying an $11 million fine, a hefty sounding amount but a pittance for a company with $288.2 billion in sales last year. Let's put it this way-- this is an equivalent financial hit to an average person making $50,000 per year being hit with a $1.90 fine for illegal activity.

The double standard for corporate crime is astounding-- we destroy the lives of young people for minor drug crimes, but corporate executives can break the law and steal pay from their workers, and all they get it a financial slap on the wrist.

Now, I don't support laws making it illegal to hire undocumented workers, but the more serious issues involved is that these immigrant workers were systematically being denied pay for their work. The reality is that if those workers are going to get any justice, and Wal-Mart will suffer any real economic deterrent to its actions, it's going to be via the class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the 10,000 immigrant workers who were hired to clean the Wal-Mart stores:

Wal-Mart continues to face a federal class-action lawsuit in New Jersey asserting that it and its contractors had conspired to violate racketeering laws. The lawsuit says that more than 10,000 illegal immigrant janitors were used at Wal-Mart stores and that they were virtually never paid time-and-a-half for overtime.
Wal-Mart was given a free pass by federal prosecutors, even though they still refuse to take responsibility for paying the workers who cleaned their stores, yet were never paid overtime for the work. Again, you have the Bush Department of Labor "praising" Wal-Mart for "cooperation", yet all they have done is promise not to commit crimes in the future.

Since Wal-Mart hasn't even made restitution to the victims of their last crime, why should anyone believe they won't do it again? When the government doesn't even require payment to the victims as a condition of the settlement, how seriously do you think Wal-Mart will take any promises they make?

Posted by Nathan at March 19, 2005 10:24 AM