The following is a guest post by Stacy Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had reached a settlement with Walmart on a number of worker safety issues. Among the repeated violations were poorly maintained and dangerous equipment and the lack of adequate training on how to handle hazardous chemicals.
This settlement, which includes the highest penalties any individual Walmart store has ever faced over such violations, flies in the face of Walmart’s claims to be a leader on environmental sustainability.
As my reporting for Grist has documented, there’s a yawning gap between Walmart’s ecofriendly rhetoric and its actions. Walmart talks big when it comes to addressing the climate crisis, but in fact, as I recently wrote, lags its peers on renewable energy and is contributing a large and growing volume of climate change pollution to the atmosphere.
Walmart’s negligence in managing hazardous chemicals is yet another illustration of its disregard for the environment and the health of workers and communities. Even as it touts sustainability, the company is continuing to cut corners and harm the environment throughout its operations and supply chain.
The $350,000 in penalties will likely be counted as a cost of doing business for Walmart, but should be an indicator to the public that Walmart’s intentions have more to do with greenwashing their brand than cleaning up their act.
Today’s OSHA action also shows why giving employees a strong voice on the job is such a key part of making meaningful environmental changes. Walmart employees with the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) have repeatedly raised workplace safety issues with the company. Yet, their complaints have largely fallen on deaf ears.