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WAL-MART EMPLOYEE STARTS PETITION FOR CEO'S OUSTER
By Brad Dorfman
(Reuters) - A deli manager at a Walmart store has started an online petition calling for the resignations of the retailer's chairman and chief executive officer in the wake of allegations that top management squelched an internal probe into bribery allegations.
Venazi Luna, who works at the Walmart in Pico Rivera, California, near Los Angeles, started the petition on Thursday and had more than 4,300 signatures as of Friday afternoon. Luna, who has worked at Walmart for seven years, said she wanted to get 10,000 online signatures or more.
The petition calls for the resignation of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) Chairman S. Robson Walton and CEO Mike Duke as well as for "a thorough and independent investigation by a highly-respected external organization."
In an interview, Luna said that after she got the signatures, she wanted to bring the petition to Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to show management that this was what employees wanted.
"Nobody should get away with bribery, and they should be held accountable for that," Luna said.
Luna, who is from Mexico, is a member of an employee group called Organization United for Respect at Walmart, or OUR Walmart, a group aimed at improving conditions for the retailer's workers.
The New York Times reported last week that Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico (Walmex) (WALMEXV.MX) made suspect payments totaling $24 million last decade to expand rapidly in the country, where it is the biggest retailer.
The Times also said that top executives had squelched an internal investigation into the probe. Duke, who became head of Wal-Mart's international business in 2005, was one of the executives who were aware of the situation, the report said.
A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment on the petition. The company this week disclosed a group of high-profile lawyers and accountants it has brought in to help with an internal investigation into the matter.
The demands in the petition mirror those called for on Wednesday by Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
A UFCW spokeswoman said Luna reached out to the union for help on the petition, which is mentioned on its website.
Wal-Mart is facing a criminal probe by the U.S. Department of Justice over potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. law that forbids bribery of foreign officials.
The Mexican attorney general's office has launched a preliminary investigation into whether the retailer bribed officials to expand its business, and Mexico's comptroller's office has also said it would look into the bribery reports.
Wal-Mart shares were up 7 cents at $59.02 on Friday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock is down about 5.5 percent this week, but has recovered some after being down 8.2 percent earlier in the week.
(Reporting By Brad Dorfman in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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