Last summer, a Newsweek article entitled "Teens at Work" brought to light Wal-Mart's questionable use of teenaged laborers at the retailer's stores in Mexico. The article explained how Wal-Mart takes advantage of a legal loophole in Mexico, which allows the use of unsalaried youths if they are "volunteering" their services. Wal-Mart labels the teens, ages 14-16, "volunteers" rather than workers -- despite the fact that they wear company vests, have assigned work hours and provide grocery bagging services for Wal-Mart's customers. They work for tips and do not receive a salary.
In the Newsweek article, top labor officials in Mexico disagreed with Wal-Mart's policy. Mexico City Federal District Labor Secretary Benito Mirón Lince said, "In economic terms, Wal-Mart does have the capability to pay the minimum wage [of less than $5 a day], and this represents an injustice." Wal-Mart de Mexico is the country's largest private employer with $550 million in profits during the first half of 2007.
Wal-Mart has a history of sweatshop labor in overseas factories and unfair labor practices in the U.S. and other countries, including Mexico. The company has over 80 wage and hour lawsuits pending against it in the United States, and in February 2005 was forced to pay $135,540 in civil money penalties to the U.S. Department of Labor over charges of 24 child-labor violations.
Wal-Mart demonstrates time and time again that it will do anything to get out of paying its workers a fair wage -- or any wage at all, in this case. This video portrays just one, egregious example of Wal-Mart's willingness to twist the truth and take advantage of its workers -- and these teens are indeed workers. By bringing more attention to the issue, we hope Wal-Mart will get the message that it needs to pay these teen workers.
To write to Mexico labor officials and Wal-Mart executives to tell them Wal-Mart should pay the teen workers, visit our action page.