Saturday, November 29, 2008

Employee Trampling Death Calls Into Question Wal-Mart's Commitment To Safety

A Wal-Mart worker, Jdimytai Damour, was trampled to death by a mob of 2,000 surging into an outlet in Valley Stream, NY, to take advantage of "Black Friday" sales (an appropriate name in retrospect). Even while the store was being cleared, some objected to leaving after waiting in line for so long. They tried to continue shopping.

This tragic event makes a shameful comment about those who place consumerism above human life. Are the crazed shoppers who took part in the melee now horrified–or are they excusing themselves for being one among many? One can also question Wal-Mart's own commitment to employee and customer safety. From the New York Times:

...it was unclear how many security workers it had at the Valley Stream store for the opening on Friday. The Green Acres Mall provides its own security to supplement the staffs of some large stores, but it did not appear that Wal-Mart was one of them.

Wal-Mart has successfully resisted unionization of its employees. New York State’s largest grocery union, Local 1500 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, called the death of Mr. Damour “avoidable” and demanded investigations.

“Where were the safety barriers?” said Bruce Both, the union president. “Where was security? How did store management not see dangerous numbers of customers barreling down on the store in such an unsafe manner? This is not just tragic; it rises to a level of blatant irresponsibility by Wal-Mart.”

...Mr. Damour’s father, Ogera Charles, 67...was angry that no one from Wal-Mart had contacted him or had explained how his son had died.

Wal-Mart is notorious for its negative impact on local businesses, poor health care coverage and low wages, as detailed in Wal-Mart Watch. It is also, as the excerpt above states, known for its union-busting (click here for my article, "Wal-Mart Warns Workers Against Obama"). Perhaps if it were unionized, an official like Bruce Both would have demanded provisions to keep an employee from being trampled to death–something Wal-Mart should have prevented in the first place and must prevent in the future.

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