Walmart: Too Big to Obey the Law?

In an op-ed published on The Huffington Post, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka asks “Is Wal-Mart Too Big, Powerful, Influential to Obey the Law?,” following a New York Times article revealing “credible evidence that bribery played a persistent and significant role in Wal-Mart’s rapid growth in Mexico.”

“Nothing like this has happened since the collapse of Enron and WorldCom in 2002,” wrote Trumka. “And in the days since the Times story appeared, the Washington Post has reported that Wal-Mart has participated in an aggressive lobbying campaign to weaken the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which makes bribing foreign officials a crime.

“Wal-Mart has gotten away with violating our labor laws en masse for decades. Will they be able to similarly ignore our criminal laws and get away with it?”

Trumka says the Wal-Mart story provides three key lessons, one of which includes the “tragic folly” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“When NAFTA was passed in 1994, many in Mexico hoped NAFTA would lead to their country shedding a legacy of public corruption and becoming more like the United States in terms of rule of law,” said Trumka. “This expectation was right in that it flowed from an understanding that a free trade agreement means economic and legal integration. But it naively assumed that rule of law would win out. Instead, NAFTA has been a race to the bottom in every respect — including rule of law. U.S. firms like Wal-Mart did not want a North America where the rule of law applied to big corporations — they wanted a legal system that was for sale both in Mexico and the United States. And so far that’s what it appears they got.”