Walmart Fined $82 million for Waste Disposal

Walmart has just been landed with a hefty $81.6-million fine for dumping waste in both California and Missouri.

The investigation has been on-going now for almost ten years. Walmart has admitted that they dumped pollutants into drains in California and Missouri, as well as throwing toxic waste into trash bins rather than paying to have it treated and dealt with properly.

The incidents for which Walmart has been ordered to pay the hefty fine are only for the period between 2003 and 2005 and the company has insisted that their practices in waste treatment have now completely changed. The case was only brought to the courts when a Health Official in California accidentally came across a Walmart employee dumping bleach into the drainage system of the city. Walmart was also ordered to pay a $27-million fine in 2010 for a very similar case. At the time, they retorted that it was the national system of waste disposal that needed to be completely changed.

Wal-Mart is already receiving bad press in the USA for labor relations and overseas supply chain working conditions. The stores have seen a series of strikes by workers over pay conditions, low wages and bad working conditions. Workers walked out and went on strike on Tuesday in stores across states (California, Florida and Massachusetts). Some of those workers have also promised that they will stay on strike until the annual general meeting takes place on June 7th. The overseas operations of Walmart have been strongly condemned also (especially in the wake of the recent Bangladeshi textile factory disaster) for failing to agree to join forces with other large producers in the US to tighten regulations in overseas operations and ensure that regulations concerning safety are strictly enforced.

There are only about one hundred employees that are striking at the moment but it’s enough to worsen the already bad publicity that Walmart is receiving from the public. Most of the strikes that have taken place at regular intervals over the past few weeks have been short-lived affairs, but a spokesman for employees at Walmart stated that they needed “to turn it up a notch”  in order to get heard. This time it is much more than just striking against low ages and bad working conditions that is at stake, employees are accusing Walmart of worker harassment and using intimidation tactics and retaliation to stop them complaining.

Striking staff cite one employee as an example: Carlton Smith, who was dismissed from his 17-year position at Walmart in Paramount, California after having organized workers that resulted in strike action. Walmart has denied the accusations, but a complaint has been lodged with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). There are other charges too. Employees began a national ‘Ride for Respect’ bus tour around Wal-Mart Stores across the country, culminating in a demonstration at the Bentonville, Arkansas store on June 7th, when the shareholders’ meeting will take place. They will be on strike for over ten days and they believe that this will give the necessary impetus to their strike cause.

Walmart is the largest grocery retailer in the USA. It has over 63% of the share of the market on average, which is worth $258 billion in sales. It is set up in 15 countries around the world and there are over 8, 500 stores today. Its total revenue for 2013 was up at more than $469 billion. There are more than 2 million employees working for Walmart worldwide. It has been a public company since 1972. Shares at the close of business yesterday stood at $77.32 and that was an increase of +0.01%.

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