Trust Funds

UW System Trust Funds
Investments and Social Responsibility:
Wal-Mart Corporate
Record
December 2004

Company background

Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and is the largest corporation and private employer in the United States. 1 For the fiscal year ended January 2003, the company reported operating net income of $12.6 billion on annual revenues of $246 billion, and the company has a market capitalization of $223 billion, representing 2.0% of the total market capitalization of the S&P 500 Stock Index. For the third straight year, Wal-Mart topped the annual Fortune 500 ranking of the nation's largest companies. The company, as the biggest employer in 25 states, is a primary standard setter for wages and labor practices.  Wal-Mart employs 1.4 million workers worldwide and over 1 million in the United States, with more than 3,000 stores in the U.S. and almost 1,300 international operations.1

Corporate Legal Record

November 2004:  Wal-Mart was ordered to pay $765,000 in fines for violating state petroleum storage tank laws at its automobile service centers in Florida. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday that the world's largest retailer failed to register its aboveground fuel tanks with the state and didn't install devices that prevent overflows, among other problems. According to the consent order, Wal-Mart also did not perform monthly monitoring, lacked current technologies to prevent overflows, blocked state inspectors from reviewing maintenance records, and failed to submit proper insurance documentation. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company now must install overflow protection devices to meet state standards. In addition, the company was ordered to implement monitoring programs and conduct storage tank training for all Tire & Lube Express managers. 2

May 2004:  Wal-Mart will pay a $3.1 million fine to settle a Clean Water Act violation stemming from excessive storm water runoff from its construction sites, federal officials said Wednesday. Wal-Mart also agreed in the settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency and Justice Department to improve runoff controls at the more than 200 sites each year where the company builds stores, including Sam's Club outlets.  The settlement, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, cites Wal-Mart violations at 24 construction sites in nine states and alleges the company failed to get required permits, did not institute a runoff control plan, and failed to install controls to prevent discharges. Wal-Mart will comply with these requirements under the agreement and will improve training and inspections of its construction sites. The settlement also requires frequent reporting to the EPA. In addition, Wal-Mart agreed to spend $250,000 to help protect sensitive wetlands or waterways in one state, not yet determined, among the nine involved in the settlement. The nine states are California, Colorado, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. In 2001, Wal-Mart and several contractors reached a similar storm water settlement that included payment of a $1 million penalty. EPA inspections of other sites arising from that case led to the latest violations. 3

January 2004:  Wal-Mart agreed to pay a $400,000 penalty and to stop selling refrigerants that contain ozone-depleting substances. The consent decree filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City settles violations of the Clean Air Act by various Sam's Club stores, which are owned by Wal-Mart, said Todd P. Graves, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. 4

2004:  Wal-Mart faces 38 state and federal lawsuits filed by hourly workers in 30 states, accusing the company of systematically forcing them to work long hours off the clock. A July 2000 internal audit of 128 Wal-Mart stores found 127 were "not in compliance" with company policies concerning workers not taking breaks.7

2004:  “Federal labor law charges have been filed on behalf of Wal-Mart workers in 25 states. From 1998 through 2003 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed more than 45 complaints accusing Wal-Mart managers in more than two dozen stores of illegal practices, including improperly firing union supporters, intimidating workers, and threatening to deny bonuses if workers unionized. Of those, the board found illegal practices in ten cases; eight cases were settled, and the rest are pending”.1

November 2003:  Wal-Mart said it had received a target letter from the U.S. Attorney's Office saying the world's largest retailer allegedly violated federal immigration laws. On October 23, federal agents arrested about 250 allegedly illegal workers in a 21-state sweep of Wal-Mart stores. A spokesman said that a grand jury would look at whether the company "violated federal immigration laws in connection with the use of third-party floor cleaning contractors." The raids focused on floor cleaners employed by companies Wal-Mart hired for the work. Ten of those arrested were Wal-Mart employees hired as the company continued a move to bring its floor cleaning in-house.5

June 2003:  After nearly two years of negotiations with the State of New York, Wal-Mart agreed to settle and pay a $200,000 fine and stop selling realistic-looking toy guns in its New York locations. Wal-Mart agreed to a court order barring the company from selling toy guns in realistic colors and those that fail to provide a non-removable orange stripe along the length of the barrel. New York's law goes one step beyond U.S. federal law, which requires the orange marking only at the nose of the toy gun.1

May 2003:  A "tentative agreement" was reached between Wal-Mart and hundreds of pharmacists suing the discount retailer for nearly $45 million in damages. A judge had already ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, in a 1999 summary judgment, that Wal-Mart Stores had violated labor laws by not paying its pharmacists overtime and shorting their paychecks for two years. The case was filed in 1995 on behalf of four Colorado pharmacists and grew to 596, who alleged they had routinely worked "off the clock" for Wal-Mart doing paperwork and other chores. Typically, their work lasted 60 hours, not the 40 hours indicated on Wal-Mart's records, according to the complaint. They alleged that Wal-Mart's failure to pay them overtime compensation, by improperly classifying them as salaried workers, was willful and that the retailer intentionally shortchanged its employees.1

April 2003:  Wal-Mart suspended sales of real guns in its 118 California stores after an investigation by that state's attorney general found hundreds of violations of state firearms laws. In addition to being the world's largest general merchandise chain, Wal-Mart is the biggest seller of firearms.1

December 2002:  “A Portland jury issued its unanimous verdict that Wal-Mart violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws by forcing employees at 18 Oregon stores to work overtime without pay from 1994 to 1999.”1

October 2002:  The National Organization for Women (NOW) reported that the Maine Department of Labor ordered Wal-Mart to pay the largest fine in state history for violating child labor laws. The Department of Labor discovered 1,436 child labor law infractions at 20 Wal-Mart chains in the state.1

August 2002:  “More than 8,000 pharmacists filed a class-action lawsuit, charging that Wal-Mart owes them $200 million in pay for ‘off the clock' work.”1

June 2002:  In a class-action suit in Texas, on behalf of more than 200,000 current and former Wal-Mart workers, statisticians estimate that the company underpaid its Texas workers by $150 million over four years by not paying them for the many times they worked during their daily 15-minute breaks.1

November 2001:  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will block an election scheduled for workers at a Las Vegas area Sam's Club on November 29 and 30 as a result of federal charges filed against the retail giant for persistent and pervasive violations of workers' rights. New Wal-Mart charges include allegations of an illegal firing, spying on workers and threatening terminations if the union won the election. The charges against Wal-Mart allegedly follow the usual pattern of threats, intimidation and coercion that has marked the company's campaign against workers.  In Las Vegas alone, the NLRB has previously issued complaints against the company for massive labor law violations in both Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores, including illegal termination and discipline of pro-union employees. A half-dozen top officials of the giant retailer must answer the board's complaints in trials scheduled early next year.  Nationwide, Wal-Mart is facing 13 NLRB complaints since Labor Day.1

June 2001:  Current and former female Wal-Mart employees filed a massive nationwide sex discrimination class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Case No.: C 01-2252 MJJ). The suit is seeking class action status that will make it the largest class action lawsuit ever, with well over 1 million participants.1

June 2001:  Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay $1 million in fines and set up a $4.5 million environmental management plan to resolve allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act in several states, federal prosecutors announced June 7. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company allegedly violated permitting requirements for storm water during the construction of 17 stores in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department said (U.S. v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., W.D. Ark., Docket number unavailable). Wal-Mart and ten of its contractors are alleged to have illegally discharged pollution from several construction sites in violation of their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits. 8

2000:  “Wal-Mart settled a suit in Colorado, reportedly for $50 million to 69,000 current and former Wal-Mart hourly workers. The terms of the settlement were confidential, and the company will say only that the actual amount is far less than has been reported.”2

March 1999: The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) signed a consent order and agreement with Wal-Mart to upgrade the environmental construction practices for stores in this state. "Wal-Mart has agreed to heighten its vigilance with its contractors and subcontractors during construction activities for all of its stores," said the DEP. "Wal-Mart will also pay a $100,000 civil penalty for past violations, $75,000 of which will be used for worthy improvement projects in Northeast Pennsylvania." The agreement was the result of Wal-Mart violations of water quality laws and regulations at a store being built in Honesdale Borough in Wayne County in 1998.10

Other News

As evidenced by the information provided regarding Wal-Mart's legal record above, alleged labor violations have been a major complaint against the company.  What follows is a fuller description of this issue.

“An internal audit of 25,000 employee records at 128 Wal-Mart Stores in the United States, leaked to the New York Times in January 2004 by an unnamed source and now under court seal, cites thousands of labor violations related to working hours. For example, a review of time cards at the 128 stores found 1,371 violations of child labor laws in a single week, including minors working too late, too many hours in a day or during school hours. The audit also reported more than 60,000 instances of workers skipping shift breaks and more than 15,000 cases of workers missing breaks for meals, in violation of most state labor regulations.”1 The audit, written by Bret Shipley, a Wal-Mart employee, was carried out in 2000 and distributed to top Wal-Mart executives that year. Wal-Mart officials have downplayed Shipley's findings, saying workers often forgot to punch in and out during breaks or skipped breaks for meals so they could leave early. Mona Williams, Wal-Mart's vice president for communications, told the Times that the Shipley audit “doesn't reflect actual behavior within the facilities.” She added that Wal-Mart had not instituted reforms in response to the report, because other Wal-Mart auditors had reviewed Shipley's work and found it flawed. But Wal-Mart's critics contend that the audit plainly reveals that the retailer violates wage and hour laws to pad profits. “Their own analysis confirms that they have a pattern and practice of making their employees work through their breaks and lunch on a regular basis,” James Finberg, a lawyer who has worked on several lawsuits against Wal-Mart, told the Times. “What this audit shows is against their own company policy and against the law in almost every state in which they operate.”7

“Allegations of similar infractions have been the subject of a spate of lawsuits filed against Wal-Mart in recent years. In December 2002, a federal jury in Portland, Oregon found Wal-Mart guilty of forcing its employees to work overtime without pay from 1994 to 1999. In the four-week trial, dozens of Wal-Mart workers testified that under pressure from their managers they frequently clocked out after 40 hours and continued working. They also claimed that Wal-Mart stores are notoriously understaffed, and store managers required greeters, cashiers, night stock personnel and managers to work additional hours off the clock after their regular shifts ended. Those who refused were subject to demotion or termination. Since then, almost 400 current and former Wal-Mart employees at 18 Oregon stores have joined the two employees in the original lawsuit. The Oregon case was only the first of nearly 40 such lawsuits that have been filed in the United States. While the amount of the various settlements for the plaintiffs in Oregon is still being decided, Wal-Mart reportedly paid $50 million to settle a similar case involving 69,000 workers in Colorado in 2001. In another case, it reportedly agreed to pay $500,000 to end a case filed by more than 100 workers at one store, in Gallup, New Mexico. While Wal-Mart told IRRC that these amounts are ‘grossly inflated,' it declined to provide more accurate figures.”7

Regarding labor conditions of its foreign suppliers, in January 2003, Wal-Mart was removed from KLD & Co.'s Domini 400 Social Index because of what it called “sweatshop conditions” at its overseas vendors' factories (the Domini 400 is a benchmark index for measuring the effect of social screening on financial performance).  KLD, which provides social research for institutional investors, said Wal-Mart hasn't done enough to ensure that its vendors meet “adequate labor and human rights standards,” according to a statement distributed by PR Newswire.1 KLD also cited charges that the company hasn't been forthright about its involvement with a Chinese handbag manufacturer alleged to have subjected workers to 90-hour weeks, exceptionally low wages, and prison-like conditions. KLD alleges that abuses in foreign factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart include the following:

  • Forced overtime  
  • Locked bathrooms
  • Starvation wages
  • Pregnancy tests
  • Forced overtime
  • denial of access to health care
  • Workers fired and blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.1

“Wal-Mart regularly says it does not tolerate child labor or forced or prison labor, yet the company refuses to reveal its Chinese contractors and will not allow independent, unannounced inspections of its contractors' facilities.”1

Another common complaint among corporate watchdog organizations and social responsibility organizations is that Wal-Mart discriminates against women employees.  It has been reported that 65% of the company's hourly employees are women, but these workers earn 37 cents an hour less than male hourly employees for the same work. Women working at Wal-Mart make on average 4.5 to 5.6 percent less than men for the same work.  Male management trainees make an average of $23,175 a year, compared with $22,371 for women trainees.  The average male senior vice president at Wal-Mart makes $419,435 a year, while the four women senior vice presidents earn an average of $279,772.  Men hold 90 percent of top store manager positions and more than two-thirds of store management positions overall at Wal-Mart. Women who do have management positions are often relegated to lower ranking positions, such as Customer Service Manager, Department Manager, and Support Manager. Women were found to be underrepresented in management positions in 49 states.  Wal-Mart employs fewer women in management today than its competitors did in 1975.1

Finally, another working-conditions and workers'-rights issue cited by company critics has been that employees have often been locked in stores overnight. A New York Times article in January 2004 reported that workers at Wal-Mart's membership warehouse chain, Sam's Clubs, were routinely locked in overnight without supervision in a move to keep thieves out and to limit employee theft. In at least one instance, a seriously injured employee stayed at a Sam's Club instead of leaving through a fire exit because he said he was afraid of being fired. In response, Wal-Mart says it has altered its policy to ensure that every overnight shift at every store has a night manager with a key to let workers out in emergencies. Still, critics say the incident points to further negligence on the part of Wal-Mart.1

And lastly, a very broad and general criticism offered by some detractors is simply faulting the company for its aggressive expansionism, and its negative impact on smaller retailers and the general overall “quality”of the communities involved. This has occasionally resulted in the blocking of new store construction in some communities.

UW Trust Funds Holdings

The UW Trust Funds currently has the following Wal-Mart holdings:

As of Date

Description

Maturity

 Cost

 Market Value

Coupon Rate

12/02/04

WAL MART STORES INC

EQUITY

$ 804,702

$ 864,196

N/A

12/02/04

WAL MART STORES INC

9/15/2006

$ 344,221

$ 327,390

8.00%

Sources:

  1. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO/CLC website:www.ufcw.org
  2. Associated Press, November 18, 2004
  3. Associated Press, May 12, 2004
  4. Associated Press, January 22, 2004
  5. CNN.com, posted November 9, 2003
  6. NewMax.com archives, Tuesday November 4, 2003
  7. Investor Responsibility Research Center, Corporate Social Issues Reporter, January 2004
  8. Excerpt from report on the settlement of an environmental lawsuit against WalMart by the Federal Government, www.walmartwatch.com, June 8, 2001
  9. New York Times, June 2002
  10. www.sprawlbusters.com, March 26, 1999