Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Live From Town Hall: WakeUp WalMart Holds Final Event of 35 Day Tour

Tonight,'s "2006 Change Wal-Mart, Change America ” 35-day cross-country bus tour, ends at Town Hall Seattle.

Since launching on August 1st in New York City, the 2006 "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" bus tour will have traveled over 8,000 miles, held 54 events with some of the nation's most prominent political leaders, signed up over 25,000 supporters, and visited 19 states and 35 cities in 35 days.

Washington's two U.S. Senators are set to join 7th District Congressman Jim McDermott as hosts for this final event. The organizers I accompanied from Portland on Saturday will be giving their "Costly Truth" presentation, modeled on the style of former Vice President Al Gore’s smash hit documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."

I'm here at Town Hall and will be bringing you live updates over the next few hours as the event progresses.

Until then, here's the fifth installment of WalMart Facts.

Wal-Mart and China

Wal-Mart buys much of its merchandise from China

  • Wal-Mart reports that it purchased $18 billion of goods from China in 2004.
  • Wal-Mart was responsible for about 1/10th of the U.S. trade deficit with China in 2005. [“U.S. Stock Investors Wary of Analyst `Yuan Plays': Taking Stock, Bloomberg, 7/1/05]
  • If Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China’s eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada. [China Business Weekly, 12/02/2004]

Many of Wal-Mart's “American Suppliers” actually manufacture most or all of their products in China

  • An example of an “American Supplier” is Hasbro, headquartered in Rhode Island. Today, Wal-Mart is the largest purchaser of Hasbro products—accounting for 21 percent of all Hasbro goods or more than $600 million in sales. But Hasbro reports, “We source production of substantially all of our toy products and certain of our game products through unrelated manufacturers in various Far East countries, principally China.” Hasbro specifies that “the substantial majority of our toy products are manufactured in China.” [2004 Hasbro 10-K filed with the SEC]

Wal-Mart's Chinese factory workers are treated poorly

  • Workers making clothing for Wal-Mart in Shenzhen, China filed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005 claiming that they were not paid the legal minimum wage, not permitted to take holidays off and were forced to work overtime. They said their employer had withheld the first three months of all workers' pay, almost making them indentured servants because the company refused to pay the money if they quit. [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • Workers making toys for Wal-Mart in China’s Guangdong Province reported that they would have to meet a quota of painting 8,900 toy pieces in an eight hour shift in order to earn the stated wage of $3.45 a day. If they failed to meet that quota, the factory would only pay them $1.23 for a day’s work. [China Labor Watch, December 21, 2005]

Elsewhere workers producing goods for Wal-Mart also face appalling conditions, despite Wal-Mart’s factory inspection program

  • Workers from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Swaziland brought a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart in September 2005 asserting that the company’s codes of conduct were violated in dozens of ways. They said they were often paid less than the legal minimum wage and did not receive mandated time-and-a-half for overtime, and some said they were beaten by managers and were locked in their factories. [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • A female apparel worker in Dhaka, Bangladesh, said she was locked into the factory and did not have a day off in her first six months. She said she was told if she refused to work the required overtime, she would be fired. Another worker said her supervisor attacked her “by slapping her face so hard that her nose began bleeding simply because she was unable to meet” her “high quota.” [New York Times, September 14, 2005]
  • In 2004, only 8 percent of Wal-Mart inspectors’ visits to factories were unannounced, giving supervisors the chance to coach workers what to say and hide violations. Wal-Mart claimed it planned to double unannounced visits by its inspectors but that would still leave 80 percent of inspections announced. [CFO Magazine, August 2005]
  • A former Wal-Mart executive James Lynn has sued the company claiming he was fired because he warned the company that an inspection manager was intimidating underlings into passing Central American suppliers. Lynn documented forced pregnancy tests, 24-hour work shifts, extreme heat, pat-down searches, locked exits, and other violations of the labor laws of these Central American countries. [New York Times, July 1, 2005 and James Lynn to Odair Violim, April 28, 2002,]

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