Monday, April 11, 2005

Wal-Mart's "union project"

The Friday Wall Street Journal had a front page article detailing the alleged shady dealings of former Wal-Mart vice chairman Thomas Coughlin, who forged invoices to have the company reimburse him for his $1,359 alligator boots and his $2,589 doghouse, among other things. Coughlin claims these phony receipts were cooked up not so that he could buy himself absurd luxury goods (he was making several million dollars a year as a Wal-Mart board member after all) but so that he could get secret reimbursement for the money he was spending out of his own pocket for Wal-Mart's "union project." In practice, this meant that Coughlin paid spies (either current union members, a felony action, or former union members, a civil infraction punishable by half million dollar fine) to attend union organization meetings so that information could be gathered and the right employees could be leaned on. Wal-Mart of course denies any such antiunion activity paid for off the books, asserting instead that Coughlin, a 25-year employee of the company who was a personal friend of Sam Walton and got his start in loss prevention, was a petty pathological thief.

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