For the past ten years or more, Wal-Mart has run afoul of federal and state officials in a number of states for violating child labor laws. The over-sized retailer has worked children excessive hours, and given them dangerous machinery to operate. Sprawl-Busters reported, for example, in March of 2003, that Wal-Mart had been fined $205,650 for 1,436 violations of child labor laws in Maine for the period 1995 to 1998. We also reported that the company was fined $135,540 for child labor violations in three states (Connecticut, Arkansas, and New Hampshire). It seems that federal and state regulators just can’t teach that old dog Wal-Mart any new tricks, because the violations just keep on coming. This week, Wal-Mart was slapped on the wrist by the Connecticut Department of Labor for child labor violations in three of the company’s stores in Connecticut. This time the company will have to deal with a whopping $3,300 fine — the maximum fine of $300 per incident. The 11 violations took place in Hartford, Norwalk and Putnam, and included illegally assigning youngsters to work on hazardous equipment such as compacters and vehicles, and working these children past 10 p.m. Children younger than 18 who are students are not supposed to work past 10 pm. A spokesman for Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, said it’s “worth considering toughening the fines” against employers that “willfully and repeatedly” violate child labor laws. The folks at Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, told the Associated Press that they were not aware of hazardous equipment being used by youngsters. As for working the children beyond legal hours, Wal-Mart responded, “Our store managers have strict time policies that they do enforce.” Last February, the Connecticut governor ordered an investigation after Wal-Mart was hit with fines from the federal Department of Labor. At the time, federal officials announced a settlement with Wal-Mart in which the retailer would be notified in advance of any DOL inspections. This week, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal reiterated his concern that the settlement between Wal-Mart and the U.S. Department of Labor was a “sweetheart deal”, noting that the federal agency’s response to a freedom of information request into its investigation was incomplete and inadequate.
Sprawl-Busters noted on June 11, 2005 that a boycott of Wal-Mart back-to-school supplies has been organized, in part as a response to Wal-Mart’s callous and dangerous use of young workers, in part because of its lavish financial support of the “school voucher” program, which undermines public education in this country. Shoppers and teachers are being encouraged to find alternative sources for back-to-school supplies to send a message to Wal-Mart that if you don’t value children or their public schools, we don’t value shopping at your stores. Search Newsflash by “child labor” to see stories similar to this one.