San Francisco, CA- Michael Duke, Wal Mart’s Chief Executive, appeared before a Council on Foreign Relations in New York recently, and there was a raucous crowd on hand to greet him when he did so. The crowd was not adoring fans of the Walmart brand, either. Instead, they were adamant and steadfast protesters.
Walmart has been confronting reports of bribery in Mexico, as a wave of labor demonstrations within the United States continual. Questions regarding a series of supposed problematic happenings, most grisly of which was the first that took 112 lives in Bangladesh of factory workers associated with the store chain.
“We will not buy from an unsafe factory,” Mr. Duke told the audience. “If a factory is not going to operate with high standards, then we would not purchase from that factory.”
Duke’s reassurance to the commission that Walmart does what it must to enforce high standards in the global clothing industry seemed to be in direct contradiction to reports gathered. They also stand in contrast to as well as Wal Mart’s own internal documents, which have recently surfaced.
The report reads as follows:
“Just two weeks before Mr. Duke’s vow, a top Walmart executive acknowledged in an email to a group of retailers that the industry’s safety monitoring system was seriously flawed. “Fire and electrical safety aspects are not currently adequately covered in ethical sourcing audits,” Rajan Kamalanathan, the executive, wrote to other board members of the Global Social Compliance Program, a business-led group focused on improving the supply chain.
Three inspection reports from 2011 and 2012 at the Tazreen Fashions factory where the fire occurred revealed serious repeated violations, including a lack of fire alarms in many areas, a shortage of fire extinguishers and obstacles blocking workers’ escape routes. At the same time, those inspections did not even cover whether the factory had fire-safe emergency exits, leaving that responsibility too often lax government inspectors.
Walmart led an effort to block a plan to have global retailers underwrite safety improvements at factories in Bangladesh, according to minutes of an April 2011 meeting as well as several participants.”
While Walmart has openly promised that its buying of good from Bangladesh, China, and other countries is in order to produce safe and non-sweatshop factories, it appears that may not be at all the case. Walmart currently buys beyond $1 billion in clothing and garments fragments from Bangladesh every year. That agreement is likely spurred by the $37-per-month minimum wage that Bangladesh provides, the lowest on the globe.
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