Saturday, October 10, 2009

WalMart - Evil Incarnate! Or Maybe Just a Really Good Company - Part 4

On again with the screed against those who are against Walmart! From the Wake-up Walmart website:

33. Walmart repeatedly broke child labor laws. Before we get into all the evils that Walmart is perpetrating against our children, lets get some other facts out in the open. Child labor in the US and child labor oversees are not the same thing. Oversees when people rail against child labor, they are usually talking about 5-12 year olds who are working their fingers to the bone. Here in America, they are talking about 14-18 year olds. Walmart doesn't employ 12 year olds in the US. In fact, the number of 14 and 15 year olds they employ is probably under 1000. That being said, they still broke child labor laws. Namely, every state (and some cities) have their own child labor laws which can be vastly different covering everything from the types of jobs they can do to the hours they can work. So yes, the country's largest employer of children (i.e. 16 and 17 year olds) occasionally violates laws of the hundreds of jurisdictions that it does business in. Guess what, other companies who hire children occasionally violate the law as well.

34. Walmart got a sweetheart deal as part of their settlement. Giving notice to employers when there is no criminal intent is not unheard of. Particularly when you are A) the biggest employer around and B) the largest payer of taxes. Sorry if we do not live in Utopia, but getting rid of Walmart will not bring on the 2nd Coming!

35. Walmart's own internal audit found extensive child labor violations. Minors working too late - if the law says not past 9:00 PM and you clock out at 9:01 PM, then your employer has violated the law. It is no surprise that their internal audit found violations, especially since the labor departments have found violations. Now, what would be shady is if the internal audit found NO violations. Once again, companies always have violations. What is really important is the severity of those violations. Were children (16 and 17 year olds) working 15 minutes more than they should or were they working 2 hours more than they should? Both are considered violations, and in many cases would be fined the same amount.

36. Walmart continued to break child labor laws. And drivers continue to break traffic laws. The fact is our country has become obsessed with having laws to cover everything. There is a report out there (I can't put my finger on it right now) that shows the average person (not criminal) commits three felonies a day. Now, I'm not sure that I believe that, but it does illustrate the point that it isn't very difficult to break a law. If you hire children, you are probably going to break a few child labor laws.

37. Walmart and undocumented immigrants. First, they are called illegal immigrants because they are in the country illegally. That is the US Government's responsibility. At one point in time there was an e-verify system where an employer could verify the work status of a worker. Not anymore. So, Walmart has been fined by the US Government (which continues to allow illegals into the country) for hiring another company which hired illegals. That is pretty hilarious to me, especially since various state, county and federal agencies have been found to have hired illegal immigrants.

38. Walmart is America's largest importer of port containers. Wahoo! Go capitalism!

39. A Walmart container arrives in the US at a rate of 1 every 45 seconds. Yeah!

40. Since 9/11, America's ports remain vulnerable by only inspecting about 5 to 6 percent of cargo containers coming into our ports. Uh-huh, are they trying to link Walmart to terrorists now?

41. Members of congress agree the risk to port security could lead to the "Nightmare Scenario." So could allowing the flow of illegals, drugs and guns across our borders, but it doesn't see like we're too worried about that.

42. Port security experts have outlined the threat of unscanned containers. Why do we need security experts to outline the danger of bringing in big boxes from all over the world?

43. Ignoring this threat, Walmart lobbies members of congress to resist tightening port security. Actually, it is the RILA, of which most retailing organizations are a part of. What they understand is that there is a finite amount of resources at any given time. While inspecting every container may have "insignificant costs" per item or per container, the total aggregate of those costs adds up to billions of dollars. Hypothetically, if you knew that someone was going to break into your house and steal $1000 worth of stuff, how much would you be willing to pay to prevent it? What if it was $10,000 or $100,000? The whole point of lobbies is to look out for the best interests of their constituants. They provide a valuable service by providing information (good and bad) to the members of government. It is members of government's job to sort through the information and decide what is best for the country and how to use the resources that government has. So far, congress has not decided that port security is important enough to divert resources from rain forest museums and snail mating practices research. That is congress's problem, not Walmart's or the RILA.

44. Walmart uses RILA as an anti-security lobbying organization. No, Walmart uses RILA to lobby for their interest. Their interest is to make money for their shareholders. That is the sum total of all security, child labor, Chinese products, safety, etc, etc decisions. One could argue that the Berlin Wall made East Germany very secure.

45. Walmart and RILA: Putting profits before security. Rule #1 says this is true. However since security is a part of profits as both a real and potential expense, the statement is meaningless.

46. Port security experts dispute the potential cost to Walmart. When faced with the cost impact, I am going to have to trust Walmart here. Why? Because they actually have to pay for these costs, the port security experts do not. Supposedly it will only raise the price by .2%. In the retail market, profit margins of 1-4% are not unheard of. 0.2% price increase equates to a profit decrease of 5-20%. Shareholders don't like that.

47. Walmart uses money and influence to pressure politicians to oppose strengthening port security. Every organization does. Because only individuals can vote. Walmart doesn't elect politicians. People do. In the end, a politician that wants to get re-elected has to please his constituents (voters). If his voters don't care about port security, then neither does he.

48. Walmart uses lobbyists who have close ties to the Department of Homeland Security. All big business uses lobbyists with ties to the government. That is the only influence they have and it helps to have someone who A) knows Washington and B) knows the people who are going to make decisions that affect your business.

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