UnCHECKED: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security
A SPECIAL REPORT FROM THE AFL-CIO TO THE U.S. CONGRESS
Almost every press story written and news show aired since the Dubai Ports World battle began has trumpeted the gaping holes in our seaports’ security systems. But few ask: Why are U.S. ports so poorly protected nearly five years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001? Why has the government spent just $630 million—less than 4 percent of the $18 billion-plus we have spent since 2001 on airport security—to make our ports safer?
The stock answer is that port security hasn’t been a priority for Congress and the Bush administration because the United States hasn’t suffered a catastrophic attack on one of our ports. But anger over the Bush administration’s support for the Dubai Ports World deal prompted the chairman of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), to reveal another significant reason:
[While we] talk about having strong homeland security, checking 100 percent of cargo containers…In the end, our commercial interests get ahead of us, and here we are, years after 9/11, still with a relatively small percentage [of cargo containers] being checked.
The people who should pay for [better container security] are…the trading companies and the commercial companies that are moving the cargo containers into this country, and that means we’re going to have to tax them or put a fee on them for inspection….It’s part of a cost of doing business today when you’re moving large cargo containers into the United States while we’re pursuing this war against terror.
The "commercial interests" are led by the world’s largest retailer and America’s biggest importer, Wal-Mart. The Wall Street Journal, in a "Washington Wire" blurb March 24, made it plain:
"Wal-Mart resists efforts in Congress to dramatically tighten port security in wake of Dubai-ports furor. The company argues examining all containers, or even a fixed percentage of them, could impede shipping and boost costs."
Rep. Hunter and the Journal let slip what is surely Wal-Mart’s dirtiest secret: The company and its Washington, D.C., lobbyist, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), have systematically under-mined our security by working to defeat and water down rules designed to make America’s seaports and far-flung supply chains safe from terrorist attacks. And Wal-Mart and RILA have invested heavily in the members of Congress with the most sway over ports and supply-chain security issues, as well as the Bush administration and the Republican National Committee.
In other news from Wal-Mart, here's a piece from Bloomberg News / Boston Globe April 6, 2006
A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive who suggested last year that the world's largest retailer should avoid hiring unhealthy workers has been promoted to head its human-resources division.
The world's largest retailer yesterday shifted five executives to new posts, moves that the chain said would help train a new crop of leaders. Wal-Mart, which has a history of shuffling top executives so they can learn how different parts of the business operate, named Susan Chambers executive vice president of the unit that oversees human resources and diversity. She succeeds Lawrence Jackson who was promoted to president and chief executive of global procurement.
In October, advocacy group Wal-Mart Watch leaked an internal company memo from Chambers that said Wal-Mart's healthcare costs were rising faster than sales because its workers are ''sicker than the national population." Labor groups, US lawmakers, and community organizations have accused the company of offering inadequate pay and benefits.
Chambers, who joined Wal-Mart in 1999 from Hallmark Cards, also wrote that Wal-Mart would ''dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work" by requiring physical activity with jobs. This could include requiring cashiers to gather shopping carts, she wrote. Chambers was then executive vice resident for risk management and benefits.