Wal-Mart Fined $81.6 Million for Environmental Damage

Wal-Mart execs may be a little less excited about their annual shareholders meeting on June 7--where no less than Elton John will be performing--given this week's events.
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Wal-Mart execs may be a little less excited about their annual shareholders meeting on June 7--where no less than Elton John will be performing--given this week's events.
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Wal-Mart execs may be a little less excited about their annual shareholders meeting on June 7--where no less than Elton John will be performing--given this week's events.

The retailer has been fined $81.6 million by the government after pleading guilty to violating environmental laws, WWD is reporting. Wal-Mart was criminally charged in the states of Missouri and California before entering into plea agreements with the US Attorney's offices.

According to the New York Times, Wal-Mart employees were dumping products like bleach and fertilizer "into the trash or the local sewer system, rather than dealing with them as hazardous waste." The company was also "routing damaged items that its customers had returned, including pesticides, to a facility where the items were processed for resale without proper permits" in Missouri.

The company started educating employees on proper waste management in 2006 and put a color-coded program in place for the handling and disposal of returned or damaged items considered toxic, like nail polish. The federal charges come on the heels of settlements in California in 2010 and Missouri in 2012.

The total breakdown of the fines? "$60 million for violations of the Clean Water Act in California; $14 million for a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in Missouri; and a $7.6 million civil penalty to the E.P.A." per the Times.

Including the federal fines, Wal-Mart has paid out over $110 million to settle these charges. A drop in the bucket, considering the retailer reported $128 billion in revenues last year alone.

But federal fines aren't Wal-Mart's only woes. The retailer was roundly criticized by consumer and labor groups after it decided not to sign the international Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, opting instead to implement its own, independent safety reform plan.

Now, labor issues are hitting even closer to home.

As The Nation reported yesterday, Wal-Mart employees are on their first-ever extended strike in Miami, Massachusetts and parts of California. Workers who walked out yesterday have pledged to stay on strike until the shareholders meeting on June 7 in Arkansas.

The strike is backed by labor group OUR Wal-Mart, organized to protest "acts of retaliation and intimidation by Wal-Mart management," including the firing of activist workers. Some of those on strike will participate in the "Ride of Respect," a caravan traveling through 30 cities visiting Wal-Mart stores before ending in Arkansas.