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Illegal Immigrants Sue Wal-Mart For Labor Violations

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Nine Mexican immigrants who worked as janitors at Wal-Marts in New Jersey sued the company on Wednesday, accusing Wal-Mart and its cleaning contractors of failing to pay overtime, withhold taxes and make required workers’ compensation contributions.

The plaintiffs, who face deportation for being illegal immigrants, also accuse Wal-Mart and its contractors of discriminating against them by giving them lower wages and fewer benefits than other workers because of their national origin. The nine Mexicans were among 250 people arrested for being illegal immigrants in an Oct. 23 federal raid on 60 Wal-Marts in 21 states.

The lawsuit, the first filed by immigrants arrested in the raid, said that Wal-Mart should be held accountable for its contractors’ wage and hour violations.

The plaintiffs have asked Wal-Mart and its contractors to pay more than $200,000 in back pay they say they are owed for overtime. The nine say they worked seven days a week, at least 56 hours a week, and were not paid time and a half for overtime hours, those over 40 a week. The immigrants say they were paid $350 to $500 a week.

The lawsuit said, “Wal-Mart, knowingly and with the intention to defraud the United States Government and the plaintiffs and in order to save money on cleaning service contract contractors,” employed certain cleaning contractors, “with full knowledge” that these contractors would pay the illegal immigrants far less than they would have paid legal workers.

A Low-Cost Carrier in the Future? American Says Maybe

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- NEW YORK

American Airlines is closely watching the attempts by its two largest rivals to start low-cost carriers and might eventually decide to start one of its own, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Gerard J. Arpey, the chief executive, said during a breakfast meeting with industry analysts in Manhattan that executives at American were monitoring the efforts by United Airlines and Delta Air Lines to emulate the success of Southwest Airlines. Last April, Delta started Song and is primarily using it to try to capture market share from JetBlue Airways on routes from the Northeast to Florida. United, a unit of the UAL Corp., said it planned to start its own low-cost carrier -- called Starfish for now -- next year and would run it from some of its hubs.

Those low-cost operations are intended to appeal mostly to leisure passengers.

Arpey said American, a unit of the AMR Corp., needed “our fair share of every leisure passenger, too.”

“We cannot have a disproportionate focus on business travelers at the expense of leisure passengers,” he said.

Arpey said American had been working on streamlining its main operation before seriously looking at starting a low-cost airline.

Putin Defends Law-And-Order Campaign

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- MOSCOW

President Vladimir V. Putin on Thursday cast the arrest of the country’s richest man almost two weeks ago as part of a law and order campaign aimed at Russia’s hugely wealthy oligarchs.

Speaking heatedly at a news conference in Rome, he said: “People earned billions, I repeat billions, of dollars in the space of five or six years. This would not have been possible in any Western European nation.”

He emphasized that the arrest of Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, who owns the giant Yukos Oil company, did not mean that Russia would reverse its policies of private ownership.

“I say officially that the Yukos case will not lead to revision of the Russian Federation’s policy in the economic or political sphere,” he said. “There are no plans of this kind.”

As Khodorkovsky has sat in jail awaiting trial on charges of economic crimes, analysts and investors have debated whether his arrest signaled a broad crackdown or even a rollback in the privatization of state property in the 1990s.

Earlier, Putin played down the case as “an isolated criminal matter.” On Thursday, he said Khodorkovsky’s arrest was the latest of many for economic crimes.

In Britain, Conservatives Choose Howard As Their New Leader

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- LONDON

Britain’s quarrelsome opposition Conservatives united on Thursday to name veteran lawmaker Michael Howard as their new leader in hopes of ending years of in-fighting and of mounting a serious challenge to Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Howard, 62, a member of the Conservative governments of former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, was declared the winner when nominations to the post closed at midday with no challengers having come forth.

Born in Wales and educated at Cambridge, he is the son of Romanian-born immigrants. He is the first Jew to lead the Tories, with the exception of Benjamin Disraeli (who was of Jewish heritage but was baptized in the Church of England) in the 19th century. While Howard’s experience in government has gained him respect as a political heavyweight, it has also earned him a reputation for being steely and distant as a policy-maker.

He is known as a combative and feisty politician who frequently got the better of Blair in parliamentary debate when he was home secretary and Blair was his opponent, or shadow, as it is known in British politics.