"Two factory bosses were arrested in Bangladesh on Saturday, 72 hours after the deadly collapse of a building where low-cost garments were made for Western brands, as the death toll rose to 325 and angry workers protested on the streets of the capital."
"The owner of the eight-storey building that fell like a pack of cards around more than 3,000 workers was still on the run."
Bangladeshi police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters demanding better working conditions after a garment factory collapsed, killing hundreds, earlier this week. M Asaduzzam, a police officer in the control room, called the protests "volatile." Asaduzzam said police used “rubber bullets and tear gas” to disperse the crowd. Meanwhile, the death toll in Wednesday’s deadly building collapse has risen to 300, with authorities expecting to find even more bodies as they search the building. A total of 50 people were found alive Friday, raising the hopes of thousands of relatives. The collapse came just months after a fire in November at a factory that makes clothes for Walmart and other Western labels.
“Where are all the customers? And where is all their money?” That was the plaintive tone struck by a Wal-Mart executive concerned about the giant retailer’s early February results, which he called “a total disaster” in a memo leaked by Bloomberg News. Investor panic caused the stock of America’s largest retailer to drop 3.8 percent at its low-point Friday, and led other retailers’ stocks to fall in sympathy. The obvious answer: the people at the lower rungs of the income ladder who constitute Wal-Mart’s customer base have been hit disproportionately by the increase in the payroll tax that took effect on January 1.
Wal-Mart’s Geiger in his e-mail urged employees to improve business by “fixing something that could really make a difference to our performance.” He quoted Tim Yatsko, the company’s executive vice president of global sourcing, saying: “We need to ‘stop the stupid.’”
Wal-Mart U.S. CEO Bill Simon said during a Feb. 1 officers meeting, the minutes of which were attached to Geiger’s e-mail, that the troubled economy leaves little room for internal errors.
“In an environment like this, we can’t afford to hurt ourselves,” Simon said, according to the minutes. “Self- inflicted wounds are our biggest risk and our toughest enemy.”
Could these greedy sobs be any more pathetic? Maybe if they paid all their employees a living wage, they could afford to do a little shopping.
About sixty activists gathered on Tuesday, December 18th outside the Port of Newark to protest the arrival of a ship they said carried Wal-mart goods from Bangladesh. Carrying cardboard tombstones spelling out Walmart’s name, and garments bearing the names of workers who died in the New York City Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the protesters said that the retail giant is culpable for the deaths of 112 workers in a similar fire last month in Bangladesh. Chants included, “One, two three four, don’t let that boat come ashore! Five, six, seven, eight, don’t touch that sh*t, don’t move that freight!”
“The supply chain needs to change…” Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) organizer Martiza Silva-Farrell told the crowd. “This is a start.”
Wal-Mart had claimed that it had cut ties with the Tazreen garment factory in Bangladesh, where the deadly blaze took place, but a report earlier this month revealed that Wal-Mart worked with at least five different suppliers there this year. Further, in 2011, the retail giant decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like the deadly blaze.
Another "Block the Boat" protest is scheduled for Thursday at the Port of Charleston. Activists there will also protest the arrival of Wal-Mart goods from Bangladesh, as well as the retail giant's low paying American jobs, and the use of foreign-made goods that lead to job losses here in the U.S.
Wasting no time at all, here's Walmart's statement issued in response to Monday evening's New York Times article about allegations of corruption in Mexico: The above video statement can be attributed to David Tovar, Vice President, Walmart Corporate Communications.
If Mr. Tovar looks a little...well, frazzled, it's probably because Wal-Mart ended their internal investigation in Mexico back in 2006. Why? Well, because they found out "things" according to the NYT report, and they never bothered to notify Mexican authorities, or anyone else for that matter. The NYT picked up where Wal-Mart left off in 2006.
Wal-Mart longed to build in Elda Pineda’s alfalfa field. It was an ideal location, just off this town’s bustling main entrance and barely a mile from its ancient pyramids, which draw tourists from around the world. With its usual precision, Wal-Mart calculated it would attract 250 customers an hour if only it could put a store in Mrs. Pineda’s field.
One major obstacle stood in Wal-Mart’s way.
After years of study, the town’s elected leaders had just approved a new zoning map. The leaders wanted to limit growth near the pyramids, and they considered the town’s main entrance too congested already. As a result, the 2003 zoning map prohibited commercial development on Mrs. Pineda’s field, seemingly dooming Wal-Mart’s hopes.
But 30 miles away in Mexico City, at the headquarters of Wal-Mart de Mexico, executives were not about to be thwarted by an unfavorable zoning decision. Instead, records and interviews show, they decided to undo the damage with one well-placed $52,000 bribe.
The plan was simple. The zoning map would not become law until it was published in a government newspaper. So Wal-Mart de Mexico arranged to bribe an official to change the map before it was sent to the newspaper, records and interviews show. Sure enough, when the map was published, the zoning for Mrs. Pineda’s field was redrawn to allow Wal-Mart’s store.
But it doesn't end there. Documents obtained by the NYT identified 19 store sites across Mexico were targeted with bribes; bribe payments with dates that coincide with critical permits being issued. The locations and conditions themselves are an abomination.
"Thanks to eight bribe payments totaling $341,000, for example, Wal-Mart built a Sam’s Club in one of Mexico City’s most densely populated neighborhoods, near the Basílica de Guadalupe, without a construction license, or an environmental permit, or an urban impact assessment, or even a traffic permit."
"A vast refrigerated distribution center in an environmentally fragile flood basin north of Mexico City, in an area where electricity was so scarce that many smaller developers were turned away."
Here in the U.S., Wal-Mart leaves a legacy of employees who are forced to live below the poverty level, and depend on Food Stamps and government healthcare programs, along with the eyesore big box stores cluttering up cities and countryside alike.
In Mexico, the legacy impacts the nation's very history and environment, even the safety of its' citizens, just as other countries suffer the deadly sweatshops.
And yes,the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the federal law that makes it a crime for American corporations or their subsidiaries to bribe foreign officials. Mexican authorities and Congressional Democrats have also begun investigations.
The following video features the pyramids in Mexico. A sight to behold, now with a nearby Wal-Mart store. The pyramids of Teotihuacan were the crowning achievement of the Toltecs. Even now, they still attract worshipers on special days. On the eve of the equinox, over a million people make the pilgrimage to Teotihuacan. They come from all over to celebrate the arrival of Spring, honour their ancestors and enjoy the big party. "It's a beautiful moment, taking the energy from the beginning of Spring," enthuses one pilgrim.
Apparently, Wal-mart CEO Mike Duke isn't getting the message from all those employee protests over pay and benefits.
During an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Bloomberg LP President Dan Doctoroff asked Duke about Wal-Mart employee wages, and noted that "New York is claiming that wages, you know, aren't adequate for that middle-class or emerging middle-class."
"Retailing is the most competitive industry out there, and we do pay competitive wages," Duke said. "Last year we promoted 165,000 people from entry-level to managerial positions."
Duke added that Walmart provides health insurance to 1 million people in the United States.
But he said he's used to all the criticism.
"With more success comes more responsibility and expectations from the public," Duke said. "So I'm thrilled to be in a position where people expect more of me."
Duke has been CEO since February 2009. According to Forbes, his compensation was $18.7 million last year.
If Duke is comparing Wal-Mart's wages to say Target, sure, maybe they're competitive. And as for the health insurance, I wonder if that is being "provided" to the less than 50% of Wal-Mart employees or simply "offered"? As many employees can't afford their share of the expense for the plans on their low wages
[Workers bury the body of an unidentified garment factory fire victim. Reuters]
Documents found among the ruins of the Bangladesh garment factory where over 100 people perished during a fire last month, show that Wal-Mart worked with at least five different suppliers there this year. Further, in 2011, the retail giant decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like the deadly blaze.
Wal-Mart said the Tazreen Design Ltd. factory near Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for the company and that it had cut ties with one supplier that kept using the facility. It’s not clear if any other suppliers continued to use the factory, which Wal-Mart had de-authorized before the blaze, the company said.
Purchase orders, shipment statements, inventory reports and other documents show that two New York-based suppliers for Wal- Mart and a third in California had sourced merchandise from Tazreen. Two companies in Bangladesh also manufactured apparel there for Wal-Mart, the records show. As recently as September, five of 14 production lines at the factory were making shirts and pajamas for Wal-Mart, an income report shows.
The Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity photographed the documents. The group passed them on to the Worker Rights Consortium, a labor-rights monitoring group based in Washington, which provided the documents to Bloomberg News. Suppliers cited in the documents include Topson Downs, of Culver City, California. That supplier subcontracted work to Bismillah Sourcing, a Bangladesh firm.
Also among the documents, an e-mail correspondence between a Wal-Mart buyer and IDG (Tazreen produced shorts for Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club brand through IDG) "highlighting the pressure the world’s largest retailer puts on its suppliers."
In a January e-mail, Wal-Mart's buyer requests and early delivery of 266 pairs of shorts from IDG for a new store opening, and IDG complied. Numerous other documents show that "tens of thousands" of the same pairs of shorts were made at Tazreen for IDG since at least the first quarter of 2012.
In 2011, Walmart reportedly decided against aiding factory upgrades that could have stopped fires like the deadly blaze at the Tazreen garment factory.
During an April meeting, Bangladeshi suppliers reached out to retailers of their garments with a plan that would help upgrade their facilities to make them more fire-proof -- other retailers approved the plan -- only to have it fall through when Wal-mart and the Gap refused to pay higher prices to make such upgrades feasible.
Another fire broke out at a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, two days after a blaze at a separate clothing factory killed at least 121 people.
The fire broke out on the third floor of the 12-story building, which houses four different garment factories. Some of the building’s workers are trapped on the rooftop, firefighters reported.
Al Jazeera reports that some workers had been trapped on the roof by the new fire, but authorities said that although they were still searching the building, they believed most had escaped and there were no reported deaths.
"We don't have any casualties but the firefighters will search the building and see whether anyone has been suffocated," said Nisharul Arif, Dhaka deputy commissioner of police.
About 15,000 Bangladeshi workers protested blocks from the gutted fire Monday, demanding justice for the victims and improved safety. Some 200 factories were closed for the day after the protest erupted in Savar, a suburb of Dhaka, the capital.
Protesters blocked a major highway, and some threw stones at factories and smashed vehicles, but there were no arrests and no clashes with police.
Survivor Mohammad Ripu said Monday that he tried to run out of the building when the fire alarm rang but was stopped.
"Managers told us, 'Nothing happened. The fire alarm had just gone out of order. Go back to work,'" Ripu said. "But we quickly understood that there was a fire. As we again ran for the exit point we found it locked from outside, and it was too late."
Ripu said he jumped from a second-floor window and suffered minor injuries.
Another surviving worker, Yeamin, who uses only one name, said fire extinguishers in the factory didn't work, "So these were meant just to impress the buyers or authority."
According to the Organization United for Respect at Walmart, 1,000 protests occurred at Wal-Mart stores across 46 states, with hundreds of workers walking off the job in an unprecedented decentralized, open-source strike at the retail giant. Local Occupy groups supported actions in dozens of cities. OWS joined with 99 Pickets, ALIGN, the Retail Action Project, and others to show solidarity to Wal-mart workers in Secaucus, New Jersey. Despite attempts by Wal-Mart's propaganda department to downplay the events, the latest massive wave of strikes and solidarity actions at Wal-Mart forced even the corporate media to pay attention, and put the 1% on notice: When we work together, another world is possible. We do not have to accept poverty, low wages, or unfair working conditions with no benefits while six members of the Walton family are worth more than the bottom 42% of American families combined.
However, the struggle is far from over! Today's inspiring actions point the way forward. Please continue to support OUR Wal-Mart and all low-wage workers in the struggle for economic justice and show support for the courageous workers and unemployed people on the frontlines against income inequality.
It's Black Friday madness caught on video. A mob of people grabbing for the same product at a Moultrie, Georgia Wal-Mart.
A cell phone shows it all. You can hear the screams of frantic people being pushed and shoved as they tried to get their hands on a Black Friday deal.
"They were literally pulling hair, people lost their shoes, you would see them just fighting, hitting each other, punching each other, and the cops actually told people, look it is time to go, sale is over," said Sharon Buchte, Shopper.
Wal-Mart headquarters says it's an "unfortunate, isolated event."
Isolated event, eh?
At this Wal-Mart in Oklahoma City, it's the sale in the video game section...
This guy took his young children to Wal-Mart in Tampa, Florida today "to watch the animals" fight over $5.00 headphones, and CNN thought it was such a good idea that they invited him on the TV?
Here we have a lot of women at another Wal-Mart -- not certain where -- rushing the towel sale today.
One last "isolated incident." Oh noes! It's the Xbox games. Note that this Wal-Mart is using yellow police tape to close off the area, lol, as if that would stop this crowd.
From the comments on this video at Youtube, "THE REAL WALKING DEAD..."
A few more Wal-Mart horror stories from Black Friday 2012:
A couple is run over in front of a Washington state Wal-Mart by a possibly intoxicated 71-year-old driver in an SUV. The woman was trapped underneath the vehicle and the man landed on the hood.
An Ohio police department is being sued this Black Friday for yet another isolated incident at a Wal-Mart last Black Friday, when police took down a shopper they wrongly accused of shoplifting and proceeded to beat the holy hell out of him.
And this Florida woman was arrested at a Wal-Mart on Black Thursday, or whatever they call the sale that starts on the day Wal-Mart workers should be home celebrating with their own families, as she searched for her sister in the store.
At yet another Florida Wal-Mart, two people were shot in front of a Tallahassee Wal-Mart by an unidentified person who fled the scene. Few details other than the victims have non-life threatening injuries, according to police, and the scene was swiftly cleaned up so shopping could resume. [Thanks to reader "flag_bible_gun" for the tip. There is video of the shooting that will probably be released at some point after the police finish reviewing it.]
Wal-Mart workers most certainly deserve better wages with all the crap they have to put up with, and I'm not nearly half-way through the Wal-Mart Black Friday videos I've come across or had sent to me. I imagine they were knocked around pretty good today as shoppers fought over their precious Black Friday loot. And to you brave souls who are participating in the walkout today, may this be your last holiday season not earning enough income to get above the poverty line, and finally be respected, appreciated, and safe from workplace hazards...like crazed Black Friday shoppers.