(CNSNews.com) - Wal-Mart "has officially declared war on the Democratic Party" just three weeks before the Nov. 7 midterm elections, according to a group that wants to "change" the nation's biggest retail chain by unionizing its 1.3 million employees.
"Rather than embrace our positive vision for a better America, Wal-Mart has officially declared war on the Democratic Party, elected leaders and every American who believes we should pay workers a living wage, provide affordable health care to all, protect American jobs and keep America safe," Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com, said in a statement Friday.
"Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Democrats, Republicans and Independents, now reject President Bush's right-wing agenda that has brought us a culture of corruption, repeated scandals, shipped American jobs overseas and even jeopardized our national security, Wal-Mart is launching a political campaign to help keep President Bush in power by trying to defeat Democrats who called on Wal-Mart to be a more responsible employer," Blank added.
Blank's comments came in response to an article in Thursday's Minneapolis Star Tribune, which stated: "The world's largest retailer is about to take the unusual step of distributing information about specific candidates to its 1.3 million employees nationwide, according to a company official.
"The information, which is still being prepared, likely will include quotes from elected officials who have been critical of Wal-Mart, as well as information about their voting record concerning legislation that has affected Wal-Mart's business," the story noted.
The Star Tribune report stated that "Wal-Mart said it will specifically target local, state and national leaders who appeared this summer at a series of anti-Wal-Mart rallies organized by Wake Up Wal-Mart."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" bus tour covered 19 states in 35 days and was designed to pressure the retail chain to increase employee wages and improve its corporate citizenship.
David Tovar, director of media relations at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., told the Star Tribune: "Our associates are very proud of the Wal-Mart they work for, and we feel they have a right to know what some politicians are doing and saying about the company."
Even Chicago aldermen, many of whom supported a measure to force large retailers such as Wal-Mart to pay employees a "living wage," could be targets, Tovar said. The bill was vetoed by Mayor Richard Daley on Sept. 11, and the city council was unable to resurrect the measure.
The controversy comes two weeks after the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company launched its associate (employee) voter registration drive in Iowa on Sept. 29. As part of that effort, Wal-Mart is distributing educational materials made available by the League of Women Voters, as well as a voter education packet.
"As the nation's largest private employer, we are in a unique position to strengthen the communities we serve by encouraging our associates to register to vote and empowering them to participate in America's democracy," Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said at the time.
Cybercast News Service has reported that several Democratic officials have been critical of Wal-Mart's policies, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy.
In addition, most of the officials who spoke at events during the "Change Wal-Mart" tour were Democrats, including Sen. Joe Biden from Delaware, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and John Edwards, a former U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate from North Carolina.
None of that was lost on Blank, whose Wake Up Wal-Mart organization is funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union - which usually supports Democratic candidates.
"From this day forward, no citizen -- regardless of their party affiliation -- should doubt how right-wing Wal-Mart's agenda really is," Blank said. "It is an agenda that no American could support, jeopardizes the future of our country and is one of the key reasons why Wal-Mart's public image continues to collapse."
"On behalf of the American people, we are not going to allow big corporations like Wal-Mart to take America in the wrong direction," Blank added.
"In that spirit, WakeUpWalMart.com, with the help of 276,000 grassroots supporters, will be announcing a major new initiative next week that will make it clear to Wal-Mart and its right wing operatives that our movement will never stop fighting until the day Wal-Mart truly changes for the better," he noted.
"That's going a bit far," Tovar told Cybercast News Service regarding Blank's comments.
"Our voter registration campaign is part of our ongoing effort to keep our associates informed about statements that are made about the company," Tovar said. "Communicating with our associates is something that we've been doing for a long time, and this is just a continuation of that.
"Anytime misstatements about Wal-Mart are made by public officials and candidates for public office, we are compelled to let our associates know the accurate information," he noted. "At the same time, when others praise Wal-Mart, we have the same responsibility to let them know that as well.
"All of this is done on a nonpartisan level," Tovar stated. "We're not telling our associates how to vote in any way, shape or form, but we do feel that sharing this type of information is a responsibility that we owe to our associates.
"And it's something, quite honestly, that they appreciate," he added.
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