Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Who Will Keep an Eye On Lawbreakers involved in the New Mt. Pleasant Menards and Wal-Mart Supercenter?

Union Township officials have approved the site plans for big box stores on the south side of Mt. Pleasant and two of the major companies involved have been involved in major pollution and other violations in other states.

Apparently for companies like Menards and Wal-Mart it is cheaper to pay fines than to comply with the laws. Wisconsin-based Menards, a Home Depot competitor, was fined $2 million by Wisconsin officials for wantonly dumping contaminants into storm sewers.

But the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, is a lawbreaker of epic proportions. Last year they got a slap on the wrist and only paid a $3.1 million fine for violating federal water pollution requirements and promised not to do it again, despite the fact that they had been repeat violators.

But the pollution law violations are just the tip of the iceberg. Wal-Mart has been cited for violations of child labor laws, violations of consumer safety laws, violations of immigration laws and even violating local water restrictions during droughts.

But it doesn’t end there. Wal-Mart is currently appealing a California decision in a class action suit that awarded $172 million because Wal-Mart violated California wage and hour laws.

Union Township is a very small local government entity with only one local zoning official who handles site approvals. Local officials have to rely on federal and state regulators to handle all other matters including compliance with pollution and other regulations.

A recent documentary shown at the CMU Democracy Film Series,“Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” details Wal-Mart’s methods of doing business.

On January 5, the ICDP’s main topic of the monthly meeting will be “The Impact of the Walmartization of Mount Pleasant.”

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