- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2003

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Workers recently arrested in federal raids filed a racketeering lawsuit, accusing Wal-Mart of conspiring with contractors in a criminal enterprise that violated the civil rights and wage protections of immigrants who cleaned its stores.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks class-action status for perhaps thousands of immigrants, legal and illegal, hired by the contractors to clean the stores of the world’s largest retailer, said James. L. Linsey, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

The collusion by Wal-Mart and the contractors violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, by systematically depriving the workers of labor law protections over at least the past three years, according to the lawsuit.

“It’s all designed to exploit the weakest, most vulnerable people in the world,” Mr. Linsey said yesterday, a day after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction barring Wal-Mart from further perceived violations.

The nine named plaintiffs, all from Mexico, were among 250 people arrested Oct. 23 by federal immigration agents during raids at 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states. They have been released to await deportation proceedings, Mr. Linsey said.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said the charges have no merit and the company will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.

“We want to get to the bottom of this and are as eager as anyone to see whatever evidence federal officials might have,” she said.

The nine workers, who cleaned stores in New Jersey, contend they were denied overtime pay despite working at least 56 hours a week and that contractors failed to withhold taxes or make required workers’ compensation contributions.

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