Walmart’s Actions Again Call Eco-Friendly Image into Question

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.

  • Guest

    Is anyone really surprised by Walmart’s fines? Walmart wants to paint itself as fine environmental steward mainly for tax breaks. If there were no tax breaks for solar or wind Walmart wouldn’t be interested in renewable energy at all.

  • Tom P Noonan

    It is time for Walmart join the United Food and Commercial Workers Union for
    all Walmart Cashier Workers and for all Walmart Produce Workers and for all
    Walmart Deli Department Workers and for all Walmart Bakery Department Workers
    and for all Walmart Clothing Department Workers and for all Walmart Pharmacy Workers.
    It is time for Walmart join the Teamster Union for all Walmart Truck Drivers
    Workers and all Sam’s Club Truck Driver Workers and for all Sam’s Club Forklift
    Driver@Stock Person Workers and for all Walmart Stock Person Workers and for
    all Walmart Gardening Department Workers and for all Walmart Hardware
    Department Workers and for all Walmart Customer Services Desk Workers and for
    all Courtesy Association Workers and for all Maintenance Workers and for all
    Sam’s Club Meat Cutter@Meat Wrapper Workers and for all Sam’s Club Cashier
    Workers and for all Sam’s Club Produce Workers and for all Sam’s Club Sam Café
    Workers and for all Sam’s Club Bakery Department Workers and for all Sam’s
    Membership Desk Workers and for all Sam’s Club Cart Attendance Workers for all
    Sam’s Club Maintenance Workers and for all Sam’s Club Pharmacy Workers. It is
    time for Walmart join Communication of America Workers for all Walmart
    Electronic Workers and all Sam Club Electronic Workers. It is time for Walmart
    join the United Auto Workers Union for all Walmart Tire@Lube Express Workers
    and for all Sam’s Club Tire@Car Battery Installment Workers right of away and
    right now please by make Walmart give all Walmart Workers a Living Wage With
    Affordable Health Care and all Sam’s Club Workers a Living Wage with Affordable
    Healthcare right of away and right now please without close down all the
    Walmart Store and without close down all the Sam’s Wholesale Club.

    Thank You Very Much

    From Tom P
    Noonan

  • floridanativee

    WOW what a slanted article.

    • Connie Lee

      Having been a victim of Walmarts lack of careing, I have to disagree with your view. And I have the scar to prove it. Namely, from a worn out oven in one of their bakeries. A bolt was sticking up out of the oven floor, if you didn’t pay close attention pulling out the hot racks it would cause them to tip and fall on you. The oven door would not stay open. You had to hold the hot door open with your foot, while you manuvered the hot racks out of the oven. Sometimes the swivel bars on which the racks hung didn’t drop and you had to transfer the hot pans from the racks in the oven onto other racks in order to get them out, all the while holding the door open with your foot. Was it reported to management? Of course. Did management really care? Not really, as long as no one was injured badly enough to require medical treatment. Temporary fixes were applied, lasting a few weeks at a time. And the reason the worn out oven was not replaced. Because it was not remodel time and the cost would come from the individual stores budget and greatly reduce the managers bonus check. Now you will probably say why not report the dangerous condition to OSHA, sure and lose your job, poor as it may be, still better than nothing, or at least being written up for telling tales out of school. Which actually did happen over another incident. Some Walmart bigwig decided to start a recycling program. Sounds good dosn’t it? Perhaps if you are willing to spend the money to make it work, but Walmart being Walmart didn’t want to do that. Instead they contracted with someone to haul off compostable trash. Now in order to make this trash compostable, someone had to stand there and remove all the little stickers from the fruits and veggies, in the deli, sandwiches had to be taken apart and all meat removed, in the bakery evey package had to be unwrapped. All very time consuming to say the least, but that was no reason for everything else not to get done. But the straw that broke the camels back was the number of dumpsters provided for this compost and the fact that it was only picked up twice a week. The result was piles of garbage sitting in the departments because the dumpsters were full and there was no place to put it. Well , along comes the fellow from the exterminator company to clean the bug zappers, and he notices a large increase in flies. He makes a comment to the department manager and she says, oh, its probably because of that pile of garbage back there. He goes over and takes a look. Next thing you know here comes a surprise visit from the health inspector. Management was not happy to be given 24 hours to clean up the mess. And in the end they had to add another bin and a third weekly pick up. Walmart, like way too many other big businesses only cares about health and safety when they get caught.

      • Connie Lee

        And the department manager who unthinkingly opened her mouth, when management finally tracked down who it was, she was blasted big time for company disloyalty.

      • floridanativee

        What have you done to improve your worth to any company. There are lots of free classes. People with great work ethics are always promoted.

      • Connie Lee

        You do assume a lot don’t you? What makes you think I need or want a job? Actually, I had my own business for many years. But I didn’t want that much work when I got older and sold it all off. But I still wasn’t ready to just sit home and twiddle my thumbs. So I got a job for something to do. With Walmart. But I didn’t like what I saw happening there and left. And something else I found there, you say skills and talent bring promotions, wrong, what I saw far more often was it’s not what you know but who you know that gets the promotions. And no I am not griping because I was passed over, I’m sure that is the first thing that will pop into your mind, I didn’t want the aggravation that comes with being a boss. If I had , I would have kept my own business. But I saw it happen on more than one occasion, a well qualified person passed over for some asst. managers friend, even though they knew nothing about the area they were put over. Which reminds me of what I found a funny situation. A young woman from the general merchandise area was promoted to supervisor over the produce, bakery and deli. Well she was determined to show her stuff. She was gonna whip those departments into shape. Anyway, she went into the deli one evening and decided the hot case hadn’t been cleaned to her satisfaction, so she insisted they pour a bucket of water into it and give it a good scrubbing. The upshot was pretty obvious. The hot case shorted out and took out a good bit of the deli electricity with it. The deli was shut down for three days and it cost the store several thousand dollars to replace the hot case. So you tell me , do you really think this idiot got her job on her merits?

        Sent from Windows Mail

      • floridanativee

        I know nothing of any specific incident you talk about, but speak about businesses in general terms. I could tell you had worked at Wal-Mart and were very bitter about them. Being bitter just hold you back. Let it go. Recognizing the skills necessary for promotion is the hardest thing about business. I have made many mistakes, but had many more successes. That is extremely rewarding. Your judgement of these people may have been different than the decision makers. Did you always have the same level job there?