[Marxism] Wal-Mart agrees to pay workers up to $640 million

Greg McDonald sabocat59 at mac.com
Thu Dec 25 04:44:41 MST 2008


Wal-Mart agrees to pay workers up to $640 million

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday it  
will pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits over wage-and- 
hour violations, ending years of dispute.

By SARAH SKIDMORE

Associate Press Retail Writer


PORTLAND, Ore. —
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, said Tuesday it  
will pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 lawsuits over wage-and- 
hour violations, ending years of dispute.

The discount retailer, which has more than 1.4 million employees,  
said the amount it pays will depend on how many claims are submitted  
by eligible workers and could range from $352 million to $640 million.

The agreement the company announced Tuesday ends the vast majority of  
such cases against Wal-Mart. Each settlement still must be approved  
by a trial court.
Wal-Mart faced 76 similar class action lawsuits in courts across the  
country as of March 31, the company said in its most recent 10-K  
filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Bentonville, Ark.-based company said many of the settled lawsuits  
were filed years ago and the allegations are not representative of  
the company Wal-Mart is today.

"Our policy is to pay associates for every hour worked and to provide  
rest and meal breaks," Tom Mars, Wal-Mart's executive vice president  
and general counsel, said in a statement.

The company declined to discuss the case further. Lawyers for the  
plaintiffs did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
Wal-Mart has been working steadily to rehabilitate its image amid  
continuing scrutiny of its labor and business practices.

Earlier this month, Wal-Mart said it would pay up to $54.25 million  
to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging it cut workers' break time  
and didn't prevent employees from working off the clock in Minnesota.

Last year, Wal-Mart said it would pay more than $33 million in back  
wages to thousands of employees after turning itself in to the Labor  
Department for paying too little in overtime over the previous five  
years. Also last year, a judge in Pennsylvania ruled that Wal-Mart  
workers in that state who previously won a $78.5 million class-action  
award for working off the clock will share an additional $62.3  
million in damages.

Under the announced agreement, Wal-Mart will continue to use various  
electronic systems and other measures to ensure its compliance with  
wage-and-hour policies and law.

Wal-Mart labor critics welcomed the settlement but said it gives no  
indication the company is changing its ways. Wal-Mart Watch Executive  
Director David Nassar said many workers still suffer mistreatment.

He said such lawsuits could have been avoided if the company had  
followed the law to begin with or allowed workers to unionize for  
better representation of their rights.

"If these millions of workers had been allowed union representation,  
they never would have had to hire lawyers and wait years to get their  
paychecks," he said.
Nassar and others said Wal-Mart, which has GOP ties, is settling the  
cases before the new presidential administration takes over.

"Wal-Mart typically fights lawsuits to the end more than any major  
corporation in America," said Burt P. Flickinger III, managing  
director of Strategic Resource Group, a retail-consulting firm. "So  
for the company to settle them within 30 days of President-elect  
Obama's inauguration indicates the company is trying to do what it  
can to present a newer face to the new administration and hope for  
the best given what the company did to try and keep the new  
administration being elected."

Flickinger said the company is changing, but still faces many of the  
labor hurdles that have riled its critics for years.
However, Flickinger said "ultimately everyone will be better off  
because of the settlement."

Richard D. Hastings, a strategist with Global Hunter Securities, said  
the settlement was good news for shareholders and Wal-Mart because it  
exacts only a one-time cost.

Wal-Mart, one of the few retailers doing well in a dismal holiday  
season, said it would take an after-tax charge to continuing  
operations of about $250 million, or approximately 6 cents per share,  
in its fiscal fourth quarter.

"This is a conclusion to the many years of issues, and everyone  
should be glad that it is behind them," Hastings said.
Shares in Wal-Mart, which rose 70 cents to close at $55.29 before the  
settlement was announced, rose 21 cents further in after-hours trading.
---
AP Business Writer Anne D'Innocenzio contributed to this story from  
New York.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company



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