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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Wal Mart: We will not buy from an unsafe factory (10+ / 0-)

    if we know about it. We will of course use as many layers of separation as possible to be sure that we don't know about it. Or that at least you can't prove that we know about it. Either way works for us.

  •  Does anyone else remember (8+ / 0-)

    when Walmart used to proudly run "Made in America" ads about how their merchandise was produced right here by American workers?


    Chickens eventually do come home to roost.

    •  Yes, the old man (Sam Walton) was no prince, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lily O Lady, JayRaye, quaoar

      but at least he had a real sense of patriotism.
        When he died and his heirs took over, that patriotism died with him as far as WalMart was concerned.
        All his progeny care about is profit, even though they're all multi-billionaires.

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 10:44:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They do sell some things american made (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, ladybug53

    corelle... but that could just be their friends or something at dow corning.

    Where I live, the Costco is closer than the Walmart.

    Costco's pick of fem. hygiene products is AWFUL, however. :|

    Gotta grab those things at some other place.

    Why hello there reality, how are you doing?

    by Future Gazer on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:05:14 AM PST

  •  I'm remember a case involving (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the clothier GAP, here in the Bay Area several years ago. GAP landed itself in a lot of trouble over the fact that clothing it sold, was made in foreign sweatshops. A bunch of college kids made a flap about it and got into the media and the chain was forced into the spotlight and had to backpedal and make lots of embarrassing noises. Areas of its supply chain were overhauled. The story has stayed with me all these 5-10 years, because so few demonstrators, with the ear of the media, managed to make such a difference.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 11:17:31 AM PST

  •  "So we all may survive." (0+ / 0-)

    Please support Warehouse Workers United

    Please donate to the ¡Sí Se Puede! Fund

    Like on Facebook

    Follow on Twitter

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs: a project to honor the men, women and children who lost their lives in Freedom's Cause. For Dec: Life so cheap; property so sacred.

    by JayRaye on Wed Jan 02, 2013 at 12:08:08 PM PST

  •  WalMart (10+ / 0-)

    I have sued WalMart many times.  These have been enforcement actions for WalMart's violations of California's right-to-know law:  Proposition 65.  I have conducted discovery against WalMart and dealt extensively with its "vendors."  

    Here's how WalMart "complies" with most laws.  It writes a one-sided contract with its foreign suppliers.  The contract says that the supplier guarantees that it's products comply with all applicable laws and all of WalMart's standards.  The contract forces the vendor to indemnify WalMart for any downside to non-compliance.  WalMart does little --usually nothing -- to make sure the vendor actually complies with laws or standards.

    This contractual "device" means that if anyone calls WalMart on a violation, they simply hand the (usually) third-world vendor the liability and expense of defending the action.  

    WalMart acts like it is a government, like the Defense department, enjoying the benefits of sovereign immunity.

    WalMart has very little capacity -- and makes almost zero effort -- to know whether its vendors comply with anything.  By virtue of vastly unequal bargaining power, WalMart has been able to insulate itself from most of the legal liability for its operations.  It is like Lilly Tomlin described ATT:  "We're the Phone Company.  We don't have to care."

    All WalMart cares about is price.  The lower the better.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:12:47 PM PST

  •  Why I don't shop there (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RUKind, hoof32, eeff, Womantrust

    Well, one of the reasons.  If I need it, I try to buy American.  If I can't afford that, I try to do without it.

    I do without a lot.  Half the time I discover I really didn't need it in the first place.

    (-6.25, -6.77) Moderate left, moderate libertarian

    by Lonely Liberal in PA on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:43:32 PM PST

  •  I've never set foot in a Walmart, never will, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RUKind, hoof32, Womantrust

    I wonder if any of their competitors are much better. Or if products we like are available from reputable sources.

    If Walmart was an honorable corporation, it would take the lead being the are the largest retailer the world has ever seem. But that's probably asking too much...the corporate world jettisoned ethics years ago.

    I will never patronize a Walmart just because of their size and their devotion to greed.

  •  The Bangladeshi government (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hoof32, Womantrust

    deserves its share of the blame.  WalMart will do whatever it can get away with.  This is why government is important, to force compliance with the law.  Here in the U.S., if WalMart could run its stores with no health & safety inspections and no enforcement of labor laws -- does anyone doubt the outcome?  WalMart gets let off the hook too often even within our own borders.  They comply because they are forced to comply -- not because it's the right thing to do.

    Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.

    by winsock on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 08:58:58 PM PST

  •  Boycott Walmart (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hoof32, Womantrust

    You can buy the same stuff elsewhere and have a cleaner conscience. No on.e is putting a gun to your head and forcing you to pay a little less. Hell, spend more and buy local if you can.

    Walmart needs to get unionized.

    "Let there be song to fill the air." R. Hunter

    by RUKind on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 09:03:50 PM PST

    •  Boycott (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Womantrust, RUKind

      A boycott of Walmart is the answer. We must not support Walmart's bottom line. You are right to ask people to buy local. When you buy local the money circulates within the community. When you shop at Walmart the money leaves the community and makes Walmart even more wealthy. Local communities would be far better off without a Walmart Store in them. They only siphon the wealth out of the community they are in.

  •  This post is marred by its title. (0+ / 0-)

    Present the facts. Argue for an interpretation. Allow the reader to come to her/his own conclusions.

    The title is beneath any liberal, intellectual discourse.

    This happens too often on FP posts these days here on DKos.

    "Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex." - David Frum

    by Glinda on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:26:41 PM PST

  •  Walmart shoppers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ...don't care.

    "Sell 'crazy' someplace else, we're all stocked up here." -Melvin Udall

    by hoof32 on Sat Jan 05, 2013 at 10:47:09 PM PST

  •  Every idea that I have these days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ..regarding these fuck's behavior is illegal and probably against describing on Kos website.

    White Hot Passion Hate isn't just for balding ayrian racists anymore. Walmart's very existence is wrong on too many levels to count.

    There must be someplace else to take quick-pics of obscenely obese wannabe tea-partiers shopping for cocoa-Puffs wearing puce thongs and plastic coconut bras.

    Dick's Guns, maybe..

    Poor people have too much money and vote too often. Republican platform plank, 1980 - present

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:23:15 AM PST

  •  OK, but that's more or less the way city (0+ / 0-)

    inspectors work, too.

    It more or less takes an open flame by an open vat of gasoline next to a broken gas pipe in a building with all of the emergency exits and windows boarded up to get a place shut down immediately.

    Of course, I live in the Chicago area and we may not be like other places.

    LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

    by dinotrac on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 04:19:29 AM PST

  •  yea well... (0+ / 0-)

    'Walmart's CEO says 'we will not buy from an unsafe factory.'

    that sure is comforting to know....

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:18:38 AM PST

  •  "I Don't Want to See Any Unsafe Practices..." (0+ / 0-)

    I had one teacher in high school who had a system for giving tests.  He'd read aloud all the questions for the test into his tape recorder, and then on the day of the test he'd simply set up the tape recorder to play the questions.  Before he hit "PLAY",  he'd announce in a loud voice:  "I don't want to see any cheating."

    And then he'd go back into his office with his bottle of bourbon for the next hour.  At least the bourbon part was the popular rumor; I didn't particularly care for that teacher and never got close enough to him to smell his breath.

    Of course the class he taught was once which everyone had to take and everyone had to pass in order to graduate; so I suppose he had some incentive to make sure everyone passed one way or another.

    But Wal-mart's dilligence in making sure it's partners engage in ethical manufacturing practices make me think of that teacher.  Just as he was interested in passing students, Wal-mart cares about cheap merchendise; and as long as they meet those criteria, they aren't really interested in looking closer at anything else.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:48:25 AM PST

  •  'we will not buy from an unsafe factory' (0+ / 0-)

    What lies? You can't buy shit from a burned-out factory! On the other hand, watch out for Wal-Mart fire sales.

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