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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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The need to diffuse Wal-Mart’s power

Wal-Mart survives through a powerful public relations campaign and management plan.

Wal-Mart has proved its complete disregard for fair labor practices as well as its willingness to employ sex discrimination practices (Duke v. Wal-Mart). The latest assault on humanity by Wal-Mart deals with its hiring practices of illegal immigrants and the company’s strategic management of its health insurance policies.

A recently leaked memo exposes Wal-Mart’s plan to keep away older or “unhealthy” prospective employees. As conveyed in the memo, the health of its employees is not as important as the image of the company. Wal-Mart planned to launch “a series of strategic investments in our health care offering so it can better withstand external scrutiny.” For a company so concerned with its reputation, one would think that Wal-Mart would not exploit its employees or discriminate against women in pay or the elderly in hiring. Instead, it creates an environment where more than three out of five workers cannot afford the company’s health insurance.

The biggest scandal perhaps is the discovery of the 245 illegal workers in 60 Wal-Mart stores. Wal-Mart’s executives claimed to be oblivious to the whole thing and eventually got away with an $11 million settlement. It was later discovered that the executives did know of the hiring of illegal immigrants to take care of maintenance duties and even “conspired” with cleaning contractors to make the most of their entirely illegal and unethical labor practices. In the worst cases, people were found sleeping behind stores and, at times, not having a home and bringing their belongings to and from work.

A simple settlement does not take away the overarching injustices Wal-Mart commits. By allowing Wal-Mart to slide in this case and many others, the system seems to be rewarding the ruthless by exhibiting laws that allow this type of activity to exist. Many of these incidents of human exploitation could have been avoided had a well-funded union with legitimate power existed, but, because it doesn’t, Wal-Mart is able to exploit globally and in our own neighborhoods by suppressing poor union campaigns. The power of this corporation must be diffused to prevent further injustices.

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