Where do I work now? Wal-Mart?
Where do I work now?

Illegals boost bottom line at Wal-Mart

The arrests last week of 250 illegal workers who clean Wal-Mart's stores shed more light on how the giant retailer keeps its prices so low.

It appears some of Wal-Mart's contractors apparently go a step further to reduce costs - they are charged with hiring illegal immigrants to do the dirty work at even lower wages.

It must be pretty hard for a corporation to resist hiring employees at minimum or subminimum wages with no overtime pay - and no complaints, lest the employees risk deportation.

Wal-Mart spokesmen deny that their executives intentionally hire illegal workers, but 10 of the 250 workers were employed directly by Wal-Mart and documents of at least one "mid-level" executive were seized in the raids by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A federal grand jury in Pennsylvania is listening to secretly recorded conversations that suggest Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executives knowingly hired cleaning-crew contractors that employed illegal immigrants, federal sources told The Washington Post.

Wal-Mart says it will now review the citizenship status of all 1.1 million employees at its stores in the United States.

Wal-Mart is not only the nation's largest employer, it's the world's biggest corporation, and its practices have driven small retailers out of business and forced larger ones to mimic_it.

Wal-Mart's demands that suppliers hold down costs have led some, like Levi Strauss & Co., to move its manufacturing overseas to remain as a Wal-Mart supplier. Just try to find something made in the USA at a Wal-Mart store.

The company's newest move to become America's supermarket is making the grocery Industry jittery In California, supermarket employees have gone on strike to protest their chain's attempts to drive down wages to compete with Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart seems to be tacitly working with contractors and subcontractors who hire non-Americans as well.

Most of the detained workers in last week's raids at 61 stores in 21 states were from Eastern Europe and Latin America. Most will likely be deported, while Wal-Mart or any contractor that knowingly hires illegal immigrants could be penalized as much as $10,000 per worker.

That could put some cleaning contractors out of business but it won't put a dent in Wal-Mart's bottom line. Wal-Mart Stores had sales last year of $244.5 billion. Wal-Mart shoppers should be outraged. Americans lament the loss of jobs overseas and their own low wages, but fail to make the connection that supporting stores like Wal-Mart have meant their own undoing.

There are few mom-and-pop stores left, and even fewer textile jobs. Yet Americans flock to Wal-Mart for "deals" on cheap foreign-made products.

While improved living-wage laws and anti-sweatshop treaties could go a long way toward improving the lives of workers everywhere, Americans must take responsibility for the dollars they spend.

- The (Lynchburg) News & Advance

Non Profits and Local