Wal-Mart receives wooden spoon on workers’ rights

Labour rights article written on the 20 Mar 2012

The International Labour Rights Forum (ILRF) has released its latest Working for scrooge report, which exposes companies with some of the worst records on respecting freedom of association in 2011. Four companies were singled out for individual scrutiny because of their poor labour practices.

Culprits include the world’s largest fresh fruit and vegetable producer, Dole Food Company Inc., which according to the ILRF has been systematically violating its workers’ right to freedom of association in the Philippines for the past 5 years. Philippines Airlines and Hersheys were also singled out for scrooge status due to their ongoing neglect for workers rights and the increasing flexibilization of their workforce.

Wal-Mart was also listed as a repeat offender. In 2011 Wal-Mart faced a class action by its 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees due to charges of gender discrimination. Although unsuccessful, this was the largest class action lawsuit and employer discrimination case brought to trial before the Supreme Court.

Wal-Mart also faced criticism for its failure to address serious anti-union discrimination by major suppliers in Bangladesh. Two major Wal-Mart suppliers had refused to allow their workers to participate in union led activities. Instead the suppliers laid charges against the Bangladeshi labour rights educators who had attempted to run training courses for workers, accusing them of instigating unrest and violence.

Wal-Mart faced pressure from over 100,000 petitioners, human rights organizations and members of the US Congress to tell its suppliers to respect the right to freedom of association and drop the charges laid against the Bangladeshi labour rights educators. Over a year after charges were filed, Wal-Mart claimed that it was “unable to comply” as it was a judicial matter “outside the scope of its activities.”

Find out more: Read ILRF report Working for scrooge

Take action: check out ILRF actions on Wal-Mart, Dole, Hersheys and Philippine Airlines