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article imageWhat is Wal-Mart’s Responsibility in the Death of Jdimytai Damour?

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By Barbara Sowell     Dec 2, 2008 in Politics
Jdimytai Damour, a temporary worker, was trampled to death by crazed shoppers on Black Friday at the Wal-Mart in store on Long Island, N.Y. Should Wal-Mart have had better crowd control? Local police and a lawyer for the worker's family say “Yes!”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the personal-injury attorney hired by Mr. Damour’s sisters, Jordan Hecht, said that Wal-Mart did not have enough security guards and the staff was not property trained.
Although Wal-Mart is defending its policies, a lawsuit may be filed against Wal-Mart and “possibly other parties” after Mr. Hecht reviews the police reports.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that Wal-Mart’s liability may be limited.
Mr. Damour was hired through a temporary-employment agency; if he is deemed to be a Wal-Mart employee, the retailer's liability may be limited under New York state's worker-compensation laws, Mr. Hecht said.
Wal-Mart claims it took extra precautions in preparation for Black Friday by hiring third-party security guards, setting up barricades, and having extra staff on hand. However Lt. Kevin Smith, “head of the county’s public-information office,” admits that:
“We went above and beyond the call of duty," Lt. Smith said. "Our jobs are not to act as Wal-Mart's security guards. It did not appear that there were enough security guards visible."
The Wall Street Journal compared Wal-Mart’s insufficient preparation to that of Best Buy Co. which controls shoppers by roping off areas to place shoppers in single file lines. Additionally, Best Buy Co. has advanced employee drills and uses employees to defuse tension with the shoppers and to had out hot product tickets before the doors open.
The Oragonian Editorial Board called Damour’s death “A preventable death at Wal-Mart,” and placed the blame squarely on Wal-Mart’s shoulders.
The editorial states that the mob may have crushed Damour but “the retail giant that laid the man at the mob's feet.”
The Oragonian editorial claims that Wal-Mart “continues to cut corners in ways that hurt workers” and that Damour’s store had “the bare minimum of extra security on Black Friday.”
While commending Wal-Mart for going greener, for working closely with local communities, and for donating $275,000 to the Oregon Food Bank, the editorial slaps Wal-Mart for continuing to get it wrong with its workers.
This is hardly the first time Wal-Mart put workers last to save a few bucks. The company has faced numerous sanctions for worker-related violations, including prohibiting workers from taking breaks and compelling them to work off the clock.
An excellent opinion article by Paul Bright in Digital Journal offers an insight into the corporate mentality that brought about this horrible tragedy.
After the scene was over, Wal-Mart, obviously hurting for dollars, re-opened the store to continue pushing our capitalist society into the black. And we cry that our economy is slowing down? Who slowed down for Damour?
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