(CNSNews.com) - The nation's two largest teachers' unions are joining the anti-Wal-Mart campaign, urging Americans to buy their back-to-school supplies somewhere else.
At various press conferences around the nation on Wednesday, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers will join other union officials in a campaign called "Send Wal-Mart Back to School."
It's part of the "Wake Up Wal-Mart" project, a union-inspired effort to pressure the large and profitable company that does not welcome union labor -- and promises "always -- low prices." (Wake Up Wal-Mart is a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.)
Critics have blasted the successful Wal-Mart company for everything from the number and size of its stores, the wages it pays, and what some view as its negative impact on American culture.
Wal-Mart counters that it supports communities financially and employs 1.6 people associates worldwide - 1.2 million in the U.S. It says it buys merchandise and services from more than 61,000 U.S suppliers and supports over 3 million supplier jobs in the United States.
Wednesday's anti-Wal-Mart press conferences are part of a "coordinated nationwide launch covering 32 cities and 20 states," a press release said.
Speakers at the press conferences will present Wal-Mart with a failing report card, which gives Wal-Mart an "F" grade in five areas: poverty level wages; taxpayer abuse; poor benefits; discrimination; and child labor.
The "child labor" entry notes that Wal-Mart, earlier this year, agreed to pay $135,540 to settle federal charges that it broke U.S. child labor laws, including laws preventing minors from operating "dangerous machinery."
The unions on Wednesday will call on Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott to adopt a "zero tolerance" policy on child labor.
Local teachers, students, civic and community leaders also will ask members of the community to sign a "back-to-chool pledge," promising to buy their school supplies somewhere other than Wal-Mart.
"I am tired of paying for Wal-Mart's failure," the pledge reads. "With over $10 billion in profit, Wal-Mart can afford to do better than poverty level wages, no company health insurance for more than 600,000 employees, discriminating against 2 million female workers and violating child labor standards."
The pledge says, "Together, we have the power to change Wal-Mart and improve America."
The Wake Up Wal-Mart campaign is urging activists to "adopt a Wal-Mart" for protest purposes; and to download flyers and sign-up sheets "to recruit your friends, family, and others in your community to sign the pledge with you."
On its website, Wal-Mart advertises that "our values are elementary." The ad copy promises big savings on back-to-school essentials, from backpacks to laptops.
The retailer also offers a "back to college" section on its website, including a "revolutionary" Freeloader Student Shopping Card, which allows parents to "take care of your student even when he or she is far from home."
See Earlier Stories:
Kennedy, Union Execs Blast Wal-Mart on Health Benefits (June 23, 2005)
Labor Union Enlists Congress in Campaign Against Wal-Mart (Mar. 29, 2005)
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