Wal-Mart Rally speech
By Ivy Klassen-Glanzer, Twin Cities high school student
October 5, 2002
Wal-Mart. It has been named to world's largest retailer. You can thank them for some of the worst sweatshop abuses in the global race to the bottom in denying workers' rights.
Sweatshops are factories where workers can be subjected to an endless list of abuses, including being paid wages of poverty, being forced to work excessively long hours without overtime pay, receiving physical and mental abuse, and being subjected to unhealthy working conditions. Companies use the factories as scapegoats, saying that the situation is
"out of their control," or that they don't own the factories, so they can't force compliance; or simply that it would raise consumer prices to improve working conditions abroad. Meanwhile, executives at companies like Wal-Mart are becoming the richest and most powerful in the world.
|Union members and other participants in the
Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour demonstrate near a Wal-Mart store
in Cloquet, Minn., on Oct. 5, 2002. (Photo by Gordon Borsvold)
Recently in China, factories producing for Wal-Mart have been found to be paying their workers not even half of China's 31 cent minimum wage. Workers are paid a mere 13 cents an hour, with some employees forced to word 13 - 20 hour shifts. This is the real cost of Wal-Mart's
"low, low prices."
Wal-Mart is consistently accused with the worst worker rights violations. Wal-Mart has been named on the long list of companies that have sweatshops in Saipan, a U.S. territory. Migrant workers from South East Asia are lured to Saipan by the expectation of good "American" working conditions, only to be confronted with 12 - 14 hour shifts, $3/hour pay, horrible living conditions and deportation for becoming pregnant or organizing any type of union activities. Recently, workers in Saipan have won a settlement from corporations that have been abusing them for years, Wal-Mart among them.
It has been proven time after time that Wal-Mart is one of the worst labor abusers in the world, that they just won't treat the workers with the respect or the dignity due to every human being. This abuse has to stop! Wal-Mart must change!
What we ask of Wal-Mart are simple, fundamental things that will ensure that workers' rights are being respected.
WE DEMAND - full disclosure of the names and locations of their factories: because we deserve to know where, for how much, and under what conditions the products we buy are being made.
WE DEMAND - Independent monitoring: because only then can we trust the investigations.
WE DEMAND - Respect for workers' right to organize: because too many workers' needs go unfulfilled, and too many union organizers have lost their jobs.
WE DEMAND - Living wage: so that workers' children can go to school instead of work, so that their families can meet at least their basic needs and have enough to eat every single day.
As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has the responsibility to set an example for other companies, but until they implement fair and ethical labor practices both at home and abroad, we will be here, day after day, demanding change. We will not join Wal-Mart in the race to the bottom!
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