Wal-Mart’s Sweetheart Deal

The New York Times reports this morning that “Wal-Mart Stores, the nation’s largest retailer, has agreed to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it violated child labor laws…most of the 24 violations covered by the settlement involved workers under age 18 operating dangerous machinery, including cardboard balers and chain saws.”

The agreement with the Department of Labor was signed January 6, but was kept secret. Only when pressed yesterday by a journalist did the administration reveal a provision in the settlement “promises to give Wal-Mart 15 days’ notice before the Labor Department investigates any other ‘wage and hour’ accusations,” including violations of child labor law and failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

Here is the Labor Department’s mission statement:

The Department of Labor fosters and promotes the welfare of the job seekers, wage earners, and retirees of the United States…In carrying out this mission, the Department administers a variety of Federal labor laws including those that guarantee workers’ rights to safe and healthful working conditions, a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay…

How, exactly, does giving Wal-Mart 15 days to cover-up labor law violations help achieve that goal?