Skip to main content

Walmart sign on store.
Walmart CEO Michael Duke recently had this to say to the Council on Foreign Relations:
“We will not buy from an unsafe factory,” Mr. Duke told the audience. “If a factory is not going to operate with high standards, then we would not purchase from that factory.”
There's one huge problem with that: It's not true. Walmart demonstrably does buy from unsafe factories, it's just that when things go wrong it tries to deny that it knew it was buying from them. And its entire system of supposedly monitoring and preventing unsafe conditions is a sham, as Steven Greenhouse and Jim Yardley detail. At the Tazreen factory in Bangladesh where more than 100 workers died in a November fire:
Two Walmart-sponsored inspections in 2011, along with a third monitoring report in April 2012, revealed recurring violations, with the first Walmart audit report, containing a warning from a Walmart official, giving the factory an “orange,” or high risk, assessment. Under Walmart’s rules, such factories are to be reinspected within six months, and are disqualified only after failing three audits within two years — raising the possibility that workers remain exposed a year or more to serious dangers before a factory is dropped.
So they found there were serious problems, dangerous problems that could take lives. And then they found problems again, and again. But the factory's owners knew that the first and second findings of safety violations wouldn't cause the loss of any Walmart business. And, hey, since in September, months after Walmart claims it stopped doing business with the factory altogether, more than half of its capacity was still dedicated to Walmart clothes, the factory's owners really knew they had nothing to worry about at all.

We're talking about having less than half as many fire extinguishers as needed, entire floors without fire alarms, smoke detectors missing from rooms filled with highly flammable materials, and exit doors that opened inward. Oh, and some of the biggest safety measures needed weren't even part of the inspections:

Sajeev Jesudas, president of UL Verification Services, whose company conducted the daylong December inspection, said it did not consider itself responsible for inspecting for fire escapes or enclosed stairways. “That’s the responsibility of the local building code inspector,” he said in an interview. “We don’t have jurisdiction to inspect the building code.”
Basically, safety inspections are just one more part of Walmart's elaborate system for passing the buck and denying responsibility for the manufacture and transport of its goods. Walmart contracts for the goods to be made, the contractor in turn hires a factory like Tazreen and hires another company to audit the factory, and when things go wrong, Walmart says, "don't blame us, it was those guys." But where safety is always negotiable, where violations can be kicked down the road for a year or more before Walmart even pretends to stop doing business with a death trap of a factory, Walmart actually does exercise the tightest possible control over costs. And Walmart has said in no uncertain terms it won't pay enough for suppliers to make needed safety improvements.

Walmart's CEO says, “We will not buy from an unsafe factory,” but Walmart's behavior makes it crystal clear that that is a flat-out, brazen lie.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 10:23 AM PST.

Also republished by Invisible People, In Support of Labor and Unions, and Daily Kos.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site