Wal-Mart’s Attempts and Court Cases

In years past, there have been many attempts to rectify the problems associated with Wal-Mart’s use of child labor and low wages. In the area of child labor, it has been difficult to formulate and enforce regulations that properly address the issue. This difficulty exists because in many countries governments are not willing or able to enforce certain laws as it relates to child labor. Additionally, in countries such as China there is no real way to enforce such laws because the government is not cooperative (Cocheo 2004).

According to an article found in the journal, Law and Policy in International Business, two tactics are used to prevent abuses such as child labor. These two tactics are corporate codes of conduct and product labeling schemes. A corporate code of conduct involves “a voluntary written pledge to respect labor rights enumerated in the code. Current and historical examples of such codes offer a spectrum of differing approaches to their application and implementation.

Product labeling requires that, in addition to adhering to a code, corporations affix a label to their products certifying that they are made under acceptable working conditions–for example, without the labor of children under the age of sixteen” (Liubicic 1998). There have also been various codes of conduct developed by the government and various labor organizations. These codes include The Clinton Administration’s Model Business Principles, The Sullivan Principles and The Apparel Industry Partnership Workplace Code of Conduct.

There was a certificate program known as Social Accountability 8000 (Liubicic 1998). According to the journal of Law and Policy in International Business, this certification program was “created by the Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Association (CEPAA) in 1997. The SA8000 code provides standards for measuring the performance of MNCs and their suppliers in nine areas: child labor, forced labor, occupational health and safety, freedom of association, discrimination, disciplinary practices, working hours, compensation, and management.

The wage provision of the code requires signatories to pay a wage that meets “at least legal or industry minimum standards and [that] shall always be sufficient to meet basic needs of personnel and to provide some discretionary income” (Liubicic 1998). Concerning the issue of low wages, since 2000, thirty-eight states have filed federal lawsuits against Wal-Mart and its policies related to overtime. The UFCW reports “A July 2000 internal audit of 128 Wal-Mart stores found 127 were “not in compliance” with company policies concerning workers not taking breaks.

The audit found workers nationwide didn’t take breaks 76,472 times in a one-week period”. In December of 2002, a jury in Portland found that the Wal-Mart Corporation debased federal and state wage-and-hour laws by forcing worker at 18 Oregon stores to work overtime without pay (“Wal-Mart’s War on Workers’ Wages and Overtime Pay,” n. d. ). Workers were also victorious in class action suits filed in Colorado and Texas.

In Texas, for example, the case emerged when statisticians found Wal-Mart has underpaid its Texas workers by $150 million within four years by not paying them for overtime works (“Wal-Mart’s War on Workers’ Wages and Overtime Pay,” n. d. ). Overall, it seems that lawsuits are the most effective in getting Wal-Mart to change its policies (Dicker 2002). Wal-Mart and other large corporations seem to respond best to tactics that affect their bottom line. Additionally, bad publicity influences consumers and drive them to other retailers that do not exploit children and workers.

Bibliography

Broadwater, Heather J. “Alleged Child Labor Violations Cost Major Retailer. ” 28 March 2005. Retrieved May 1, 2005 from ;http://www. krupinobrien. com/enews/newsletter. php? sid=719; “Child Labor in Apparel Sector. ” Retrieved May 1, 2005 from ;http://www. apparelsearch. com/Education/Research/Child_Labor_Fashion_Industry_2005/I_Apparel/Child_Labor_Apparel_Sector. htm; Cocheo, Steve. “Wal-Mart Is Looking for In-Store Partners Again. ” ABA Banking Journal 96. 4 (2004): 10+.

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