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Conn. AG Calls for Multi-state Wal-Mart Investigation

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal referred yesterday to Wal-Mart's agreement to pay $135,540 to settle federal child-labor allegations as "a sweetheart deal," and said he would ask the two other states where violations allegedly occurred to join forces with his in a probe of the retailer's child labor practices.

"For Wal-Mart this amount of money is less than a pittance," Blumenthal told the Associated Press. "But the nature of the violations is extraordinarily severe and serious, particularly as they effect Connecticut children." He added that a provision requiring the Department of Labor to give the retailer 15 days' notice before beginning an investigation "enables changes in practices and even destruction of evidence if they receive a notice so far in advance."

Between 1998 and 2002 Wal-Mart allegedly allowed teenage employees in Arkansas, Connecticut, and New Hampshire to operate hazardous equipment, including a chainsaw, paper balers, and forklifts, in violation of child labor laws that prohibit anyone under 18 from using such equipment. The company denied the allegations but agreed to settle.

The Labor Department and Wal-Mart responded that the settlement was a standard arrangement and that the company was actually fined more per violation than other retailers. The settlement additionally provides for training on child labor law compliance, according to labor officials.

Wal-Mart added that although it believed the issue was now resolved, it would cooperate with any investigation launched by the Connecticut attorney general.

Blumenthal said he intends to contact officials in Arkansas and New Hampshire by the end of the week.
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