Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Wal-Mart battle takes cue from politics"

From today's Seattle Times:

There is no candidate. There are no ballots. There won't be an Election Day. And yet it may be the hottest, highest-stakes political contest in America today.

It's the campaign against Wal-Mart.

A year-old effort to force the nation's No. 1 private employer to change its business practices has evolved into a Washington-style brawl: tens of millions of dollars spent by Republican and Democratic political consultants using polling, micro-targeting, ads, e-mails, direct mail, grass-roots organizing and strategic "war rooms" to ply their trade in the corporate world.


Wal-Mart's main opponents are the Service Employees International Union, which started Wal-Mart Watch, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) , which funds a separate campaign called WakeUpWalMart.com

After failing to organize employees of Wal-Mart Stores with traditional tactics, the unions decided to use modern campaign and communications methods to drag the company into the public square and to try to shame them into change.

Both groups have hammered the world's largest retailer about its wages, employee health insurance, treatment of workers and proclivity for buying non-U.S. goods. Wal-Mart has responded with counterattacks and a multimillion-dollar campaign to polish its image.

On both sides are some of the best political strategists money can buy.

WakeUpWalMart.com is run by Paul Blank, political director for Howard Dean's 2004 Democratic presidential campaign, and Chris Kofinis, who helped draft retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark into that race.

Their campaign has all the markings of the Dean and Clark insurgencies: a snappy Web site, volunteer action lists and an issues-based, grass-roots campaign.


WakeUpWalMart.com claims 212,000 supporters who can be mobilized with a computer stroke to recruit members and be at media events to shine a bad light on the Bentonville, Ark., company.

A goal of the UFCW is to show Wal-Mart's 1.3 million U.S. employees — many of whom have a low opinion of unions or fear retribution if they organize — that unionized labor can change their workplace and lives for the better.

"For years, labor leaders were fighting Wal-Mart the old way, but times have changed," Kofinis said. "Instead of organizing workers, they're trying to organize the nation" against Wal-Mart."


In the union camp, both groups send opposition research on Wal-Mart to reporters, e-mail supporters and stage events such as rallies and documentary-film screenings.
So go ahead T.V., keep on telling the citizens of Pullman that it is "none of their business" why their tax dollars are being wasted as part of this national political campaign. Keep on denying the obvious truth that the UFCW and its attorneys are allied with PARD in its fight against Wal-Mart. We're not stupid. Take a look again at last year's city council election results.

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