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Wal-Mart's Impact on Worldwide Living and Working Conditions Cited in Workers' Demand for WTO Labor and Human Rights Standards


Wal-Mart's global reach, extensive economic ties to dictatorial regimes and anti- worker practices fueled the demand that the World Trade Organization (WTO) set basic labor and human rights standards as an integral part of the world's trade system. Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and one of the biggest outlets for goods imported from Communist China and other dictatorships.


The trade practices permitted by the WTO have led to the resurgence of child labor, forced labor and the systematic degradation of human work as key components of the new world economic order. As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart is distribution central for WTO's new economic order.


"Wal-Mart represents everything that's wrong with the WTO. Free trade doesn't come by making workers unfree. That's what Wal-Mart is doing&hibar;amassing great wealth by pitting workers against workers, driving down wages and lowering working conditions worldwide," said Robert Morand, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) International Vice President.


Hundreds of UFCW members rallied today at Safeco Field in Seattle to protest the giant retailer's poverty-level wages in the U.S. and overseas. The rally featured Charles Kernaghan who has exposed Wal-Mart and Kathie Lee Gifford connections to sweatshops around the globe.


Wal-Mart's garments are stitched in misery. In the Beximco garment factory, a Wal-Mart contractor in Bangladesh, young women making shirts for Wal-Mart are forced to work 87 hours a week and paid 9 to 20 cents an hour for 80 hours. In many overseas garment shops where clothes for Wal-Mart are sewn, new employees are forced to take a mandatory pregnancy test. Workers are searched on the way in and out of factories and public access to plants is prohibited by heavily armed guards.
Wal-Mart undercuts union jobs in the U.S. American manufacturers have been forced to cut jobs or close doors when Wal-Mart replaces their products with imports. At Master Lock, 250 union workers lost their jobs when Wal-Mart dropped the company's products and switched to an offshore competitor. Brown Shoe Company workers lost their jobs when stores like Wal-Mart switched to more imported shoes.


Wal-Mart trades in suppression of human rights. As the world's largest retailer with more than $130 billion in yearly sales, Wal-Mart is one of the largest outlets for imported goods in the U.S. Goods coming from China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other oppressive countries make Wal-Mart one of the world's largest traders in human misery.


For nearly a decade, news reports have documented Wal-Mart's manufacturing and trading links to countries where sweatshops and child labor are prevalent&hibar; nevertheless, those links are sanctioned by the WTO.


UFCW members demanded reform of the WTO to incorporate basic labor protections&hibar;the right to a living wage, the right to free association and collective bargaining, the end of child labor, forced labor and employment discrimination&hibar;into global trade policy. The group called on the WTO to abandon trade and investment rules that protect patents but allow children to pay for international trading profits with their childhoods.


The rally participants joined with the AFL-CIO sponsored Rally and March Against WTO Global Injustice. Both events took place as the WTO summit convened in Seattle where the Clinton administration is hoping to facilitate China's admission into the global trade organization, despite its dismal human rights record.


The UFCW is the largest organization of retail workers in North America, with 1.4 million members. Workers at retail food industry leaders such as Kroger and Safeway are members of the UFCW.


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For more information, please contact Greg Denier, UFCW, (202) 466-1591 or

United Food and Commercial Workers International Union: A Voice for Working America

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