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OCTOBER 24, 2003
3:22 PM
Guillermo Meneses 202-637-5018
Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on the Arrests of Undocumented Immigrant Workers at Wal-Mart Stores

WASHINGTON - October 24 - The arrests of hundreds of undocumented immigrant workers at Wal-Mart stores in 21 states underscore the sobering fact that the “Wal-Martization” of our economy is driving down wages and workers’ rights through a relentless search for the cheapest labor — labor that is often based on routine exploitation. Wal-Mart has been charged repeatedly with violating federal employment laws, including class action lawsuits in more than 30 states. Sadly, our immigration laws are so broken that undocumented workers are easy prey for Wal-Mart and other companies bent on exploitation. We must fix our nation’s immigration laws so that they discourage rather than encourage the exploitation of workers.

It is appalling that our nation’s largest employer is driving the corporate race to the bottom in wages and benefits. Just 46 percent of Wal-Mart’s workers have any kind of health insurance according to a recent AFL-CIO study, and Wal-Mart proudly points out that many of its workers use public healthcare programs that are taxpayer funded. When companies like Wal-Mart force wages down and shirk any responsibility for benefits, entire communities suffer. Wal-Mart also demands the lowest wages of the workers who manufacture the products it sells, often overseas, fueling sweatshops worldwide.

Rather than punishing undocumented immigrants — who are working hard, paying taxes and contributing to society — we should hold employers like Wal-Mart accountable for not honoring workers' rights and paying a living wage. And we should change this country’s immigration laws to support rather than undermine workers’ rights.


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