September, 2005

The Question Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott Didn’t Answer

In an interview with Business Week, posted on their website today, Wal-Mart’s CEO did not answer a very important question.

The reporter asked Mr. Scott why Wal-Mart was reaching out to environmental groups and not WakeUpWalMart.com.  Mr. Scott responded, “”I don’t see any benefit to it. What I found in reaching out to these other groups [environmentalists & anti-sweatshop activists] is that while there are exceptions, in most cases they would like for Wal-Mart to be successful. That is fine with them. What they would like to see us do is change in a way that really makes a contribution to society.””

When the reporter followed up with, “”That isn’t the agenda of the unions?””

Lee Scott responsed with, according to Business Week, “”Silence. No answer.””

“”Why won’t Lee Scott answer the question?”” said Paul Blank, campaign director, WakeUpWalMart.com.  “”WakeUpWalMart.com is offering Wal-Mart a genuine opportunity to form a new partnership for change to improve the lives of their workers, their families and the community.  In an open letter to Wal-Mart’s CEO last week, we wrote, ‘In the end we are not your enemy.  Our goal is to be your partner in making Wal-Mart a better business’.””

Paul Blank continued, “”Instead of answering the demands of the American people, Wal-Mart remains silent.  On behalf of our more than 80,000 supporters, and all Americans, we will make Lee Scott answer the American people’s call for living wages, affordable health care, and respect.  We hope Wal-Mart will wake-up and accept our offer to meet and discuss how we can help Wal-Mart grow and prosper in new ways.””

Below is the open letter WakeUpWalMart.com sent to Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott last week:

AN OPEN LETTER TO WAL-MART CEO LEE SCOTT

Mr. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

Dear Mr. Scott,

In the wake of the terrible tragedies caused by Hurricane Katrina, Wal-Mart helped ease the suffering of many Americans.  This crisis brought out the best in Wal-Mart and we applaud your hurricane relief efforts. We hope Wal-Mart’s response to Hurricane Katrina represents a turning point.

Wal-Mart has a great opportunity to work with us to help improve the lives of so many Americans who face an economic and health care crisis everyday, everywhere in America. The American people want to know, will Wal-Mart do what is right for America or will Wal-Mart lead a race to the bottom.

We believe now is the time for Wal-Mart to address the serious issues facing its 1.3 million workers, their families, our communities and our country by agreeing to the following “”six demands for change.””

  1. Living Wage.  Pay all Wal-Mart workers a fair living wage so they can support their families.
  2. Affordable Health Care.  Provide all workers comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage so they can care for their families and no longer be forced to rely on taxpayer-funded public health care.
  3. End Discrimination.  Ensure equal opportunity and equal pay for women and people of color in your workforce at all levels through a stringent and independent monitoring process.
  4. Zero Tolerance on Child Labor. Adopt a zero tolerance policy and institute an independent monitoring program to stop the exploitation of child labor in the United States and abroad.
  5. Buy American.  Establish a “”Buy America”” program that annually increases the percentage of “”Made in America”” goods purchased by Wal-Mart so as to help protect American jobs.
  6. Respect Communities. Work with local communities to effectively address Wal-Mart’s negative impact on issues like traffic, sprawl, the environment, and local businesses.

As you stated recently, “”When you do the right thing, good things accrue to you.””  We agree.  Just imagine the good Wal-Mart can do if it works with us to become a better company by doing the right thing – everyday. We hope you will view our “”six demands for change”” as a sincere effort to form a new partnership for change.

In the end, we are not your enemy. Our goal is to be your partner in making Wal-Mart a better business.  We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss how we can help Wal-Mart grow and prosper in new ways. But, make no mistake about it, if Wal-Mart refuses to change for the better, we will continue to build this broad-based social movement into one of the most powerful forces for change the nation has ever seen.

Wal-Mart has an incredible opportunity – right now – to work with us to better the lives of all your workers, to set a new standard for corporate America, to be a better business, and to build a better nation. We hope you will and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

WakeUpWalMart.com – America’s Campaign to Change Wal-Mart.

P.S. This November we, along with a broad coalition of community organizations, will be launching Wal-Mart Week, November 13th – 19th, to highlight Wal-Mart’s negative impact on America.  You can go to www.walmartweek.com and learn more about the actions we will be taking and the movie being released.  Our hope is that by then, instead of highlighting Wal-Mart’s failures, we can stand together and celebrate a new day at Wal-Mart – a day when real change improved the lives of millions of Americans.

Statement by Paul Blank, WakeUpWalMart.com Campaign Director, on First-Ever “”Congressional Hearing on Wal-Mart””

Today, in Cleveland, Ohio, Congressman Sherrod Brown will hold the first-ever Congressional field hearing on the negative impact of Wal-Mart’s business practices. WakeUpWalMart.com is proud to be a part of this important national hearing and will work to hold additional hearings to highlight the cost Americans pay for Wal-Mart’s so-called ‘low prices.’

Cong. Brown’s “”Wal-Mart Hearing”” represents a dramatic next step in the growing movement to change Wal-Mart and build a better America. This hearing will help educate consumers about why Wal-Mart needs to change and build greater public awareness and political support to change Wal-Mart into a more responsible corporate actor.

As America will no doubt learn from this hearing, Wal-Mart needlessly chooses to “”do the wrong thing”” even though they have the means and wherewithal to “”do what is right.””  The question Wal-Mart must now answer is, when will they stand up and finally address the negative effects their business practices have on their employees, their families, the community, and the nation?

We hope Wal-Mart will finally listen to the growing chorus of community voices and work with us to make Wal-Mart into a company that reflects the best of America’s values everyday.

UFCW KATRINA RELIEF FUND APPROACHES $350,000

Washington – The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Katrina Relief Fund continues to grow with generous contributions from workers and organizations, and now approaches $350,000, thanks to a $50,000 contribution made in the past few days by UFCW Canada. UFCW Canada has also pledged to raise another $200,000 for the relief fund. Moreover, United Latinos of UFCW has also contributed $50,000.

Meanwhile, the UFCW began finding and helping more Katrina survivors in Alabama while continuing to help and to find affected members in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Until now, most requests for assistance were coming from UFCW workers employed in Louisiana who were affected by the hurricane, but UFCW leaders and workers have been canvassing Mississippi and Alabama looking for members in need. The call volume at UFCW’s Katrina assistance hot line has been increasing steadily as members talk to each other, and as UFCW continues placing announcements in shelters.

UFCW Region 5 International Vice President Alvin Vincent said that, “Many hurricane survivors are in need of food, and UFCW local unions have begun sending truckload full of groceries to specific areas that are facing the greatest need.”

In addition to providing groceries, UFCW, union leaders and members have been helping connect workers with their families. They have been helping workers find government, non-profit and community assistance. They are helping workers and their families find shelter – partly through UFCW’s Adopt-a-Family program – and sometimes helping them relocate and find new jobs. UFCW has placed special effort in finding members sheltered at the Houston Astrodome. UFCW International President Joe Hansen and Canada’s National Director Michael J. Fraser encouraged local unions to adopt UFCW families displaced by the storm.

UFCW has thousands of members in southern states that have been affected by the storm. UFCW recently identified and began assisting nursing home workers in Alabama. UFCW members experiencing the worse impact from the storm include those employed by Domino Sugar Co. in Chalmette, LA. Other affected UFCW members include those working at poultry processor Sanderson Farms, at an oil refinery, at barber shops, and at a Sara Lee plant in Mississippi. For additional Katrina-related information, please refer to UFCW’s website at www.ufcw.org.

UFCW Region 5 employee Arlene Carrow Crocker has been taking most of the hot line calls. She has never experienced anything more emotional or heartbreaking. “”For some of our Domino Sugar members, I believe that the realization of any major loss is just now setting in,” she said. “With an open heart, I try to find the right words, but I realize that only time will heal their wounds.”” In addition to the UFCW, other unions of the recently formed Change to Win Coalition have implemented Katrina-victim relief programs of their own and in collaboration with other unions.

Please feel free to publicize the UFCW Katrina Relief Fund hot line – (866) 820-6141. For any photographs illustrating UFCW efforts in the field, you may contact Federico Cura.