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Citing "serious and systematic" abuse of human and labor rights, Norway's Finance Ministry today banned Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer and employer, from the $250 bn Norwegian Government Pension Fund - Global.

HalvorsenThis investment fund, where much of Norway's soaring petroleum revenue is stashed away for future generations, is one of the largest in the world. In addition to a policy of ethical corporate governance, its investments are subject to ethical guidelines issued by Parliament and applied by the Finance Ministry based on advice from an independent Ethics Council. For instance, companies can be blacklisted for environmental offenses or involvement in the production or maintenance of landmines or nuclear weapons. In Wal-Mart's case, the Ethics Council found "an extensive body of material" suggesting it had been employing minors against international rules, condoned dangerous working conditions among its suppliers and suppressed unions. Norway's Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen (picture) of the Socialist Left Party explained:

We are talking about systematic gender discrimination and the denial of rights to enter into unions. Among the suppliers there are child labor and compulsory unpaid overtime as well as dramatic measures such as unreasonable punishment and lock-in of the workers. There are violations of human rights, labor rights and the UN Convention against Child Labor.

When given a chance to answer these charges, Wal-Mart responded with silence, she added.

Where Wal-Mart does choose to be vocal is in its support of the GOP. It is known for its major campaign contributions, 85 percent of which have gone to Republicans. During the 2004 campaign cycle, wherein Wal-Mart was the #2 donor, Dick Cheney lavished glowing praise upon the corporation:

This is one of our nation's great companies.... The story of Wal-Mart exemplifies some of the very best qualities in our country -- hard work, the spirit of enterprise, fair dealing, and integrity.... [it is] a tremendous operation, an economic powerhouse, and a real credit to the United States of America.... The managers and associates at this great company are helping to drive our economy forward. You're making a vital contribution to the most prosperous economy in the world. It's an honor to stand with the workers of this outstanding company.

For once, there is no reason to doubt his sincerity.

Originally posted to Sirocco on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 08:56 AM PDT.

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