I don’t care how green Wal-Mart attempts to be, I hate this store. Recent news from Workers.org describes how 4,000 teenagers in Mexico work for tips only at Wal-Mart, even though full time employment of 14-year-olds is banned by International Labor Organization. According to Workers.org, “Just like the U.S. military, which ignores the economic draft and calls its troops “voluntary,” Wal-Mart claims that the teenagers who work only for tips at their Mexico stores are “volunteer” workers.” MSNBC reports,
Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation today, with nearly 150,000 local residents on its payroll. An additional 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico—and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits. The company doesn’t try to conceal this practice: its 62 Superama supermarkets display blue signs with white letters that tell shoppers: OUR VOLUNTEER PACKERS COLLECT NO SALARY, ONLY THE GRATUITY THAT YOU GIVE THEM. SUPERAMA THANKS YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING. The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be “volunteering” their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws.
In a country where most people live on less than $4 a day, these teenagers’ tips must be scanty. There is no doubt Wal-Mart could afford to pay the minimum wage of less than $5 a day, with Wal-Mart de Mexico reporting profits of $290 million for the second quarter of 2007.