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Exploiting kids

Wal-Mart ( ASDA here in the UK ) prides itself on cutting costs at home and abroad, and its Mexican operations are no exception. Wal-Mart is taking advantage of local customs to pinch pennies at a time when its Mexican operations have never been more profitable. 19,000 youngsters between the ages of 14 and 16 work after school in hundreds of Wal-Mart stores, mostly as grocery baggers, throughout Mexico—and none of them receives a red cent in wages or fringe benefits.

The use of unsalaried youths is legal in Mexico because the kids are said to be “volunteering” their services to Wal-Mart and are therefore not subject to the requirements and regulations that would otherwise apply under the country’s labor laws. Although Wal-Mart’s worldwide code of ethics expressly forbids any “associate” from working without compensation, the company’s Mexican subsidiary asserts that the grocery baggers “cannot be considered workers.”

Wal-Mart is Mexico’s largest private-sector employer in the nation …