This week’s reports from The New York Times that found “credible evidence that bribery played a persistent and significant role in Wal-Mart’s rapid growth in Mexico” are breathtaking, says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a Huffington Post column.
Nothing like this has happened since the collapse of Enron and Worldcom in 2002. And Wal-Mart is, of course, a more important company than either Enron or Worldcom. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States.
Wal-Mart workers know that Wal-Mart is indifferent to the law, Trumka says. “That is the lesson of a trail of employee harassment and fired union activists in the U.S. and Canada. And in Mexico, employees work under protection contracts with company controlled ‘unions’ that ensure the company will maintain low wages and prevent workers from organizing a legitimate union.”
But this Wal-Mart story provides other lessons we all need to understand.
First, says Trumka, it shows “the utter futility of expecting large corporations, their boards and their law firms to police themselves.” Second, it reveals the “tragic folly” of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Third, the biggest losers in “Wal-Mart’s Mexican business-as-bribery strategy” are Mexicans, “Mexican retailers who could not outbid Wal-Mart, Mexican citizens who saw their environmental laws ignored.”
The inevitable next question is: Are we going to be losers too, in that the rule of law will be undermined in the United States when we decide Wal-Mart is too big, too powerful, too influential to have to obey the law?
Read the full post here.