Wal-Mart loses $187 million appeal


Wal-Mart Stores Inc has lost its appeal of most of a $187.6 million verdict for Pennsylvania hourly workers who accused the world’s largest retailer of denying them meal and rest breaks.

A three-judge panel of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania on Friday said there was sufficient evidence for Philadelphia jurors in 2006 to conclude that Wal-Mart’s practices violated state wage and hour laws. It also said Wal-Mart’s own internal review uncovered violations regarding “off-the-clock” work.

I’m glad to see the government helping to ensure protections for these workers. The “free market” (not that we have one) could never have corrected this wrong. Indeed, this isn’t even a wrong in the eyes of free market capitalists. Only government has the power to fix these sort of large-scale abuses that would so easily go by the wayside otherwise. Thank goodness it’s here.

33 Responses

  1. Of course a ‘free market’ could have corrected this “wrong”. If these workers are unwilling to work what Wal-Mart desires they work, they don’t have to. Government is simply restricting choice in the matter.

    In a free market, Wal-Mart would be forced to either change its practices or find a way to do without the workers unwilling to work.

    I’m not saying that’s what we should institute, but it’s incorrect to claim:

    1. That this is a ‘wrong’ or an ‘abuse’ when only some workers would feel that way. It’s simply your judgment, or the governments.

    2. That a free market couldn’t correct for this. As I said, faced with unwilling workers they have only two choices.

  2. …You omitted Wallmart’s thinking…..”get by with it until you are sued”….And how many choices do workers have in the real world? What chance do they have to represent their interests for safer working condition, reasonable pay, reasonable hours, etc etc against powerful corporations in “free market” ? A free market unregulated by goverment is a one way ticket to hell on earth.

  3. There is an agreement in place which says so long as Wal-Mart is in business and employing people, they will give certain breaks. They violated that agreement. If we can’t call that a wrong, then I don’t know if anything is wrong.

    I’m willing to amend my language. A free market, in principle, could do all the things government does. But it won’t. And it’s impracticable to think there is enough motivation there to do so. The nature of this offense is one that would have gone by the wayside without the court system.

  4. The nature of this offense would be one that went by the wayside so long as there are those willing to work under given conditions.

    It’s the same issue that exists with minimum wage laws.

  5. The principal that governs a free market is competition. i.e. The decisions a company makes regarding its workers wellbeing are based on how well its competitors treat their employees and affects how likely a person is to work for a given company under their terms and conditions.

    The problem with big corporate supermarkets is that they move to a town and eliminate all the other small retailers the area reducing the diversity of employment opportunities for the people there.

    The obvious benefits to the consumer are the “stack it high sell it cheap” and the “one stop shop” aspects of a supermarket business model but these come at the expense of eroding the diversity of the job market.

    There are good social reasons why the government should counter this. A monopoly on a national scale wouldn’t be tolerated how ever the big supermarkets have perfected the process of doing it at a local level thereby avoiding legislation.

  6. Libertarians, as usual, have absolutely no argument to stand on. They think workers are just another expendable resource. How pitiful. They should just go to some small island (there aren’t many of them) so they can spout their illogic to each other

  7. Kerik, it’s competition that drives out small suppliers. In the end, trade does not exist to provide jobs, nor any kind of diversity of them. Trade, and so business, exists to serve to provide products and services to those willing to purchase them.

    What would you have, a restriction on how efficient businesses can be? That would surely weed out the big stores. It would probably weed out more jobs than it saves also, not that that’s the point of any of this.

    Let me ask a question. If a machine can do something, twice as quickly and at half the cost of a person, should we outlaw the machine to save jobs?

    To give some credit to Milton Freidman for the idea here, he visited a building site where a canal was being constructed. Someplace in Asia I think. All the workers had shovels, he asked why there were so few machines, the answer was that this project was a jobs program. He responded (paraphased), “Oh I thought you were trying to build a canal, if you want jobs, why not give them spoons?” or words to that effect.

    Your issue is not the big chains, but the improved efficiency at which they operate over small retailers, dealing many times in volume, and being able to under sell others because of it. If you want to reduce efficiency, than say so, but that’s is the real pea under the mattress.

  8. Michael, The agreement changes every year. It is not an agreement between employer and employee but one between government and all of the above. Agreement is not even the right word. Restriction is a better one. Not only are employers restricted, but so are potential employees.

  9. Nate: I agree that business’ exist to provide products and services at a profit however government exists (in this case) to make sure that they don’t do it to the detriment of society.

  10. And you define “detriment to society” as businesses going out of business because they were competing, and lost? Because they couldn’t match the efficiency of other entities?

    What now, bailouts of small businesses that lose the competition? Subsidies to fatten their profit margins and allow them to compete with bigger businesses?

    Business is a risk, you seem to be saying that the inevitable results of risk, losing, are detrimental to society. Correct me if I’m wrong, please.

  11. Libertarians, like I said, think real people are waste. I don’t understand how fucked up and abnormal their thinking can be.

  12. Since corporations have no obligation to society, and no incentive to respect agreements when the penalties are so trivial, the notion of a “self-correcting market” is obvious nonsense. It would only be valid if both labor and capital had equal bargaining power, which is blatantly not the case.

    Workers need organized power to fight back against capital–in the form of unions (ideally) or government (if necessary).

  13. More fucked up nonsense from a libertarian:

    Ron Paul said the president must tell generals what to do. He said if he were president he would begin withdrawing troops almost immediately. He said the United States has no purpose fighting a war in Afghanistan.

    There is a defect in that man’ brain.

  14. Nate: All I’m saying is that if you allow any business to grow to point where it has a local monopy or a massive market share then the drive to increase efficiency and profits will be done at the expense of the common man.

    The free market forces which should counteract this are weakened as the employee has less opportuntity to seek work else where.

    This in my opinion is bad for society and it is why we have employment legislation.

    China for example has different laws and we have all heard the stories about workers there. Their ability to treat workers differently is one of the reasons that most manufacturing work has moved over there. This could be seen as an example reinforcing your case that we should do the same in order to remain competitive however if you want to sell groceries to Americans then you need to be based in America and employ local people so we do not need Chineese working standards here in order to make a profit.
    That is not to say that big business’ wouldn’t like things to be like they are in China as I’m sure it’s very profitable, I’m just saying I wouldn’t and I’m sure I’m not alone.

    In a democracy you would expect a government to legislate on the wishes of the majority even if that means paying a bit more for your shopping.

  15. I’m not against all employment laws, but there are a great number of them that should be left to the employer/employee to decide between themselves. You cannot legislate this Utopian “best fit” scenario. You either make it so expensive to have employees here that we can’t compete. If you are going to not allow people to work under conditions and for a price that they are willing to work, than you won’t ever stop the flow of jobs to third world hell holes with no value for human life.

    You can have basic protections, I’m not against that, but do you have any idea how many laws we have on the books regarding how, when and for how much you can sell your own labor?? It would take you a while to read, I’ll put it that way. To what purpose? We have a high level of chronically unemployed, more jobs moving over seas, and no demand for the excess labor we have.

    But thank goodness they are not going to miss those breaks. Or make a mutually agreed upon wage lower than minimum. If they can find a job without emigrating to China.

  16. Copyleft, you’ve made a good point. Workers are free to organize to sell their labor in a pool. They should do so. If they can’t find businesses willing to negotiate with them, that should be fine too.

    You talk about corporations like they are an actual thing, I know its just the party rhetoric, but come on now. You are talking about the owners of a corporation, the shareholders or in the case of my LLC, me. You are more than happy to do to a business owner what you are unwilling to let happen to an employee.

    Unions have been and can be a force for good or they can be worse than a business. Does the latter not bother you? So long as the rhetoric is upheld to punish business at all costs, because that is a benefit to the employee? Because that’s not right. Unions lead to better jobs for fewer people, that’s always been the case and always will be.

  17. That would only be true if the labor movement hadn’t produced broad, generally positive effects for ALL workers–like a 40-hour workweek, a minimum wage, health and safety standards, anti-discrimination laws, etc.

    Yes, unions can abuse their power too. All power can be abused, after all. But in our current situation, worrying about unions “abusing their authority” is about as relevant as worrying that the Unitarian Universalists will suddenly seize control of the GOP and demand gay marriages for all.

  18. Those things are not positive for all workers. You are mistaken. Those things exclude workers who are perfectly happy to work a longer work week, or for less pay, etc.

    Not everything that looks shiny is gold. How many people would be happy with a 20 hour work week? The worker would benefit from that, wouldn’t they?

    I really hate overtime law. People just don’t get over time.

  19. Overtime laws employ more people. If a business is too stingy to let a worker get overtime, then the hours go to a part-time worker or someone with fewer than 40 hours. That or the business suffers for not knowing how to hire.

  20. Seems like the guy willing to work 50 hours at the same rate, and the business and consumers benefiting from lower costs of operation, are the ones a losing.
    Now instead of one job at 60 hours a week, some people have two jobs.

    Yup, certainly creates more jobs Michael, just not in the way you would hope. It hurts the poor more than anyone.

    But hey, the point is more jobs right? What the effect on people doesn’t matter, only the good intentions.

  21. You’re assuming it’s better that one person work a 60 hour week instead of one person working 40 hours while another works 20. The very law we’re discussing is premised in the notion that people don’t tend to need to work over 40 hours in order to live comfortably. In fact, you and your ideological brethren have often argued that even poor people in the U.S. are doing just fine, relatively speaking. So why let one person become overworked (thereby losing productivity) in order to get unneeded money when two people can work, increase productivity, and, ya know, both live?

  22. Tell that to all the people who have second and third jobs. I don’t argue that a person might be less effective or not have the need to work that much. But you are missing the whole point, if it is an effective and mutually agreed upon act, than why should the government prohibit it?

  23. More evidence that the lunatic libertarian spouts inane nonsense.

    “more blue-collar temps exploited, new report finds”


  24. Because the government recognizes principles other than market efficiency (such as decency, compassion, fair play, justice, etc.)… concepts that the free market is incapable of understanding, let alone respecting or embracing.

    And WE, the people, are the government. WE set the terms under which corporations are permitted to operate. Why should “the govervnment” interfere with business operations? Well, why on earth NOT? Capitalism isn’t sacred, and businesses aren’t exempt from public control and accountability. Indeed, why would they be?

  25. Good response, copyleft. Unfortunately to libertarians there is no “we” or “us”.
    They only recognize Me, Me, Me.

  26. I think mutually acceptable contracts between employer and employee are no ones business but the two parties there named. Why do you believe it is your business what pay and conditions I might agree to work under? You say businesses aren’t exempt from public control, you must mean individuals are also to be publicly controlled. Regardless of the myths that you liberals like to believe, people are hurt by these policies intended to help.

    As soon as Bob, posts a comment worthy of a response I’ll be more than happy to discuss things. As soon as you realize that people join unions simply for ME ME ME, WE and US be damned, you’ll be a lot more factual in your illustrations of things you quite clearly know little or nothing about.

  27. Nate, you are the one who clearly misunderstands that people do things for themselves but do care about others. Libertarian, like you, on the other hand are in it for themselves and don’t care about others, and actually enjoy the misery of others which increases their ego and self satisfaction.

    I do not desire to ‘discuss’ anything with you because you demonstrate a closed mind and an egotistical opinion used in place of facts and evidence. I enjoy joining everyone else here un proving you wrong on most threads.

  28. If there is ever a time you’ve proved anything I’d like to see it.

  29. I’m done here. You contribute nothing, seldom does anyone even take note of what you have written, surely you’ve noticed. I’m going to go back to ignoring your posts like most of the other commenters. Even Michael.

  30. Many times, with back up evidence but being closed minded and opinion driven, you are blind to it. No one supports you.

  31. No one ever supports your opinions. Many support my stances. Like I said, you are opinionated and blind. Go ahead and give up like the child you are.

  32. […] kids, its that time again., the waking hours, when Bob says things that only a mental patient would find reasonable. Many times, with back up evidence but being […]

  33. The big LOSER, Nate, the troll, has lost again with his evidence-less bullshit flinging from his lips. It is so fun to counter his fecal spew with actual facts.

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