Wal-Mart Must Meet 'Higher Expectations,' Campaign Says

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - More than 300 labor unions and other liberal groups are joining forces for "Higher Expectations Week," a series of 1,000 events intended to pressure Wal-Mart to make reforms in such areas as "affordable health care, corporate responsibility and economic justice."

"Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton once said, 'High expectations are the key to everything,' and we agree," Andrew Grossman, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, said in announcing the campaign, which will run across the country during the week of Nov. 13-19.

"Unprecedented in its size and scope, Higher Expectations Week unifies concerned citizens to highlight the myriad of problems Wal-Mart creates," Grossman added "Together, this national movement is moving toward making the retailing giant a better employer, neighbor and corporate citizen."

According to the Wal-Mart Watch website, labor unions taking part in the campaign include the Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Other participants in the week-long series include such liberal groups as the Sierra Club, United for a Fair Economy and Pride at Work, as well as local affiliates of the AFL-CIO, the National Organization for Women, the ACLU and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Using fact sheets and activist toolkits from the Wal-Mart Watch and Wake-Up Wal-Mart websites, activists will hold events in such venues as churches, synagogues, mosques and neighborhoods, as well as "on the front steps of Wal-Mart's 3,600 U.S. stores."

However, the biggest event of the week will be 3,500 house parties to screen the film "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." The movie is being produced by Robert Greenwald, the director of other self-described "guerilla documentaries" as "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" and "Uncovered: The War on Iraq."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the world's largest retailer was also the target of the "Send Wal-Mart Back to School" campaign, an effort that urged Americans not to buy their back-to-school supplies at Wal-Mart last summer.

Michael Reitz, director of labor policy for the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, told Cybercast News Service he considers such events to be part of "a smear campaign by labor organizations to pressure an employer into unionizing."

Reitz said he found the latest effort "ironic" since it's being "led by labor unions and other organizations that continually oppose higher expectations in the classroom."

Christi Davis Gallagher, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, took a philosophical view of the campaign.

"Being the biggest makes us a natural target, and some of that just comes with the territory," Gallagher said. "And I think it's fair to say that some of our critics have legitimate concerns about smart growth, the environment, making sure people are treated fairly and the like. We try to partner closely with those folks and work things out.

"But far and away, most of the criticism is part of an expensive and carefully orchestrated campaign driven by labor unions" that are "very fragmented these days," she told Cybercast News Service. "Leadership has figured out that 'declaring war on Wal-Mart' seems to be the only thing that pulls people together and solidifies their power."

Higher Expectations Week, however, "adds absolutely no value for the rank-and-file managers and union members," Gallagher added. "They are paying for this campaign, it doesn't enhance their jobs in any way, and they are forbidden to shop at Wal-Mart. It is lose/lose/lose for them."

Gallagher was also critical of Greenwald's film on Wal-Mart.

"We haven't seen the movie, but by most of the accounts we have heard, it doesn't reflect the view of most Americans," she said. "It seems that his project is better categorized as propaganda than a documentary. If Mr. Greenwald chooses to target millions upon millions of mainstream Wal-Mart shoppers, then he'll continue to find himself on the fringe of society."

Most people, Gallagher concluded, "will see this film -- and the other events of this week -- for what they are: a sensationalized and one-sided view of our company."

See Earlier Story:
Teachers' Unions Join Campaign to Demonize Wal-Mart (August 10, 2005)

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