Earlier this year, Wal-Mart told the public it had no idea illegal immigrants were cleaning its stores, but after the illegal workers were busted, they have now organized and are fighting back. This week they won the first round, when U.S. District Court Judge Joseph A. Greenaway Jr. rejected an attempt by Wal-Mart to dismiss the suit. Instead of halting the case as Wal-Mart asked, the judge approved the sending of court-approved notices to potential plaintiffs. The court ruled that the claim illegal immigrant workers have minimum wage and overtime pay rights under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act has merit. More than 200 janitors who worked for contractors serving Wal-Mart are part of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was originally filed by 17 Mexican and Eastern European janitors, nine of whom were from New Jersey. Most of the plaintiffs were part of the 250 illegal immigrants who were arrested in October of 2004 when federal immigration agents conducted raids at 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states. According to the Associated Press, since the lawsuit was filed, lawyers located more than 200 other former contract janitors, many from Eastern Europe, who they say were also illegal immigrants working at Wal-Mart. Lawyers for the immigrants had wanted Wal-Mart to provide the names of all contract janitors since 1996, but the judge limited potential plaintiffs to janitors that had worked since 2000. The judge also ruled that the lawsuit does not extend to Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club warehouse stores.
There will be alot more to come in the “janitors v Wal-Mart” case. For history on this case, search Newsflash by the words “immigrant.” Wal-Mart has used illegal labor to not only clean their stores, but to build them also. Using illegal janitors was just another business strategy to help Wal-Mart clean-up. In this case, literally.