Skip to main content

Eliminate Double Standard in Code

Letter to Global Social Compliance Programme

We are writing to express our concern regarding a serious shortcoming in the new Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP), launched by five of the world’s largest retailers (Carrefour, Metro, Migros, Tesco, and Wal-Mart). The program is self-described as a “shared and global approach for the improvement of working conditions in the global supply chain.” It is silent, however, on working conditions in the facilities owned and operated by these and other companies that may ultimately join the initiative. This glaring omission creates the possibility that GSCP member companies’ direct employees will enjoy fewer rights protections than those laboring in their supplier facilities.

This will be the case for Wal-Mart’s over 1.3 million US workers if the draft GSCP code is implemented in its current or a similar form. The draft code states that supply chain workers “have the right to join or form trade unions of their own choosing . . . and to bargain collectively. Suppliers shall not interfere with, obstruct or prevent such legitimate and lawful activities.” While this is a laudable objective, it should also apply to workers at the retailers’ own facilities.

Our May 1 report, Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of US Workers’ Right to Organize, documents how Wal-Mart violates this right to form and join unions at its own US stores. The report details how Wal-Mart relentlessly exploits weak US labor laws to thwart union formation and violate the rights of its US workers to form and join trade unions. Its tactics have been so effective that none of the company’s US workers is represented by a union.

We found that Wal-Mart carefully trains its managers on “how to remain union
free in the event union organizers choose your facility as their next target” and instructs them to report any news of union activity to the Union Hotline at headquarters, to which the company usually responds by sending out its Labor Relations Team to squash the organizing effort. Team members hold small- and large-group “captive audience” meetings, which workers are strongly urged to attend. Workers hear of the terrible consequences of union formation and see videos dramatizing the message. In some cases, store managers and Labor Relations Team members have also illegally eavesdropped on employees, told workers they will lose benefits if they organize, discriminatorily banned talk about unions and prohibited union flyer distribution, unfairly targeted union supporters for discipline, and fired workers for their union activity.

Human Rights Watch strongly believes that companies have both an obligation to ensure respect for workers’ rights throughout their supply chains and a duty to respect the rights of their own workers. Committing to the former but not the latter, as the GSCP draft code allows, is unacceptable. Accordingly, the GSCP code should be amended to eliminate this potential double standard by requiring the five current GSCP member companies, including Wal-Mart, and all future signatories to apply the code both in their own stores and their supply chains.



Carol Pier
Senior Labor Rights and Trade Researcher
Human Rights Watch

Jean-Christophe Ferrer, Quality Director of Non-Food Division, Carrefour
Marion Sollbach, Sustainability and Environment Manager, Metro
Johann Züblin, Head of Standards and Social Compliance, Migros
Lara Ladipo, Ethical Trading Manager, Tesco
Rajan Kamalanathan, Director of Ethical Sourcing, Wal-Mart

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country