Ten Commandments for Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart sells itself as the all-American company, but it violates American family values every single day.
11/20/2005 09:18 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Wal-Mart sells itself as the all-American company, but it violates American family values every single day. Wal-Mart refuses to sell magazines, books, or CDs that it believes will offend the values of average Americans. But what Wal-Mart's leaders can't seem to grasp is that average Americans are offended by its shameful tactics to boost profits at the expense of the families of hard-working men and women.

Last week I was happy to join Robert Greenwald to discuss his new documentary, "Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price". I applaud his efforts and the brave workers in the film who tell their stories. And I applaud the community groups and religious leaders who are promoting awareness of Wal-Mart's abuses by showing this important film in neighborhoods and houses of worship throughout the country.

This is not just a Congressional fight. The American people are also demanding accountability. Wal-Mart has forced employees to work overtime without pay. They have hired professional union busters to keep employees from having a voice at work. They have refused to provide affordable health care, while instructing workers to apply for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. They have refused to promote women and people of color. They have violated child labor laws by requiring kids to use dangerous equipment. And they have used predatory pricing practices to put small companies out of business.

Surely, the largest company in the world, which made more than $10 billion in profits last year, can do better by its workers, better by our communities, and better for the American taxpayer.

Wal-Mart's founder, Sam Walton, was known for creating the 10 Commandments of Leadership. Well, today I challenge Wal-Mart to abide by the Ten Commandments of Good Corporate Citizenship.

Thou shalt pay living wages.

Thou shalt provide affordable health care.

Thou shalt pay overtime.

Thou shalt not bust unions.

Thou shalt pay and promote women and men equally.

Thou shalt not discriminate against people of color.

Thou shalt not support sweatshops.

Thou shalt not violate child labor laws.

Thou shalt provide safe working conditions.

Thou shalt not dump toxic waste.

Companies that abide by these commandments succeed. One of Wal-Mart's chief competitors, Costco, is a shining example of good corporate citizenship. Its average pay is 76 percent higher than Wal-Mart's, and its employees have health insurance, dental, and retirement benefits. Yet it is Costco, not Wal-Mart, that has delivered higher returns to shareholders over the past decade.

Sam Walton was right when he said that a company's success depends on its values. And Wal-Mart's current CEO, H. Lee Scott, was right two weeks ago when he called for an increase in the minimum wage even though his only reason for supporting it was so that Wal-Mart's minimum wage customers could buy more Wal-Mart products.

We are working hard in Congress to make the Wal-Marts of the world accountable to workers, families and communities. We have introduced legislation to expose Wal-Mart's practice of dumping responsibility for health care for its employers on the American taxpayer. We have introduced the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a voice at work and to stop anti-union intimidation tactics. We continue to fight for an increase in the minimum wage, to ensure that no one who works for a living lives in poverty. We have sponsored legislation to ensure equal pay for men and women. And we are increasing penalties against companies with dangerous working conditions.

The time has come to demand more than low prices from America's largest employer.