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May 26, 2006

NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS WAL-MART WORKING CLOSELY WITH RIGHT WING ATTACK GROUP


GROUP CALLS ON WAL-MART TO FIRE BOB MCADAM AND LEE CULPEPPER AND END RELATIONSHIP WITH RIGHT WING ATTACK DOG, RICK BERMAN

Washington, D.C. – WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, has uncovered a close and working relationship between high-ranking senior Wal-Mart executives, Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, and right-wing radical Rick Berman.

Earlier this year, Rick Berman, a well-known right-wing radical and defender of mercury poisoning, drunk driving and Big Tobacco, launched a campaign attacking hard-working union members. At the time of Berman’s launch, Wal-Mart spokesman, Sarah Clark, publicly denied any involvement or connection between Wal-Mart and Berman’s group, the Center for Union Facts. According to the Los Angeles Times, Clark said Wal-Mart had “”never heard”” of Berman.

Now, Wal-Mart publicly admits it has not only heard of Berman, but has been working with him. The Detroit Free Press reports, “”Wal-Mart said it has a relationship in which it exchanges union information with Berman, the group’s head.”” [Detroit Free Press, 5/24/06

In addition, an investigation by WakeUpWalMart.com confirms that two senior Wal-Mart officials, Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, have worked closely with Berman on “”special projects”” that have related to defending Big Tobacco, defending mercury poisoning, and other right-wing causes.

For example, Bob McAdam worked with Phillip Morris at the Tobacco Institute during the same period of time that Phillip Morris contributed $900,000 to Berman’s pro-tobacco campaign. Lee Culpepper worked at the National Restaurant Association. The NRA’s members contributed to Berman’s pro-mercury poisoning campaign. In fact, Lee Culpepper, while working at the National Restaurant Association described his relationship with Berman in these glowing terms, “”I’ve worked with Rick for years, and indeed he is a lightning rod. People have strong feelings about him, but he helps the industry.””

“”Under the leadership of two new senior officials, Wal-Mart has turned to the radical right-wing to try and salvage its declining public image,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Blank continued, “”The American people will be deeply disturbed to learn Wal-Mart has developed such a close relationship with a right-wing fanatic like Rick Berman.

It appears Bob McAdam, best known as Big Tobacco’s liar-in-chief, has created a culture of lies and deception at Wal-Mart that threatens the company’s credibility with the media, consumers and the American people. Since Bob McAdam joined the company, Wal-Mart has misled the public on its health care statistics, lied on its banking application, and falsely claimed it didn’t know it was hiring illegal workers. Lee Culpepper’s relationship with Berman is equally reprehensible.

America must wonder why Wal-Mart wants to be associated with three individuals who have spent their careers lobbying against the public interest including defending mercury poisoning, drunk driving, and big tobacco.

Unless Wal-Mart wants to be forever associated with these abhorrent causes, Wal-Mart needs to immediately fire its right-wing attack dogs Bob McAdam and Lee Culpepper, end its disgusting association with Rick Berman’s group, and issue an apology to all of the hard-working families demonized by Mr. Berman.””

May 26, 2006

WAKEUPWALMART.COM EXPOSES WAL-MART’S NEW HEALTH CARE PLAN FOR PART-TIME WORKERS


DOCUMENTS EXPOSE WAL-MART’S SECRET PLAN TO CUT WORKERS’ HOURS, SHIFT TO A MAJORITY PART-TIME WORKFORCE, AND CUT BENEFITS FOR FULL-TIME WORKERS “”TRANSITIONED”” TO PART-TIME

Washington D.C. – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, released copies of Wal-Mart’s new health care benefits plan for current part-time employees and full-time employees “”transitioned”” to part-time. The health care documents were given to the group by Wal-Mart employees concerned about the terrible effects that Wal-Mart’s new policies, in particular the drastic transition from full-time to part-time, are having on employee morale, customer service and store performance.

The first document, a 7-page booklet, titled “”My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits: Making a Difference for You,”” details the specific changes to Wal-Mart’s health care benefits which the company announced last month. The second document is a memo from Wal-Mart’s “”administrative committee”” to all “”full and peak-time hourly associates,”” titled a “”Summary of Material Modifications to Associates’ Health and Welfare Plan.””

Both documents were given to employees as part of a special enrollment period which runs from May 15-26, 2006. The special enrollment period, however, is not open to all Wal-Mart associates. Only associates who are part-time and have more than 1 year of service but less than 2 years of service (part-timers with more than 2 years of service are only eligible if they enroll their dependent) and full-time employees who were just ‘transitioned’ to part-time status, are eligible to enroll.

“”Based on these new documents, either Wal-Mart falsely claimed it would offer its low cost plan to 50% of its Associates, or Wal-Mart has ‘transitioned’ many more workers to part-time than has been reported publicly. Either way, Wal-Mart’s rhetoric doesn’t match reality, and Wal-Mart workers are paying way too high a price,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Based on the two documents, it is obvious Wal-Mart’s “”new health care changes”” will do little to expand health care coverage for many of its 1.3 million employees. Rather, Wal-Mart’s health care changes are clearly structured to cut health care costs and minimize the public relations disaster from slashing over 200,000 full-time jobs and replacing or transitioning them with low paid part-time workers.

According to a JP Morgan report issued in January 2006, as well as the infamous internal health care memo authored by Wal-Mart Executive Vice President Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart publicly states it intends to shift hundreds of thousands of full-time workers to part-time status. In the two health care documents, Wal-Mart coldly refers to this shift as a “”transition”” and now describes part-time workers as “”peak-time”” employees.

Under the new health care changes, all ‘transitioned’ employees lose most of their benefits, including dental, life insurance and disability immediately, and will lose their health care benefit after one year. In addition, part-time Associates are unable to enroll their spouses. The lack of spousal coverage is consistent with Wal-Mart’s desire to cut health care costs by decreasing spousal coverage. As Chambers states in the memo, “”spouses are by far the most expensive plan members to cover.””

Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s new health care plans continue to remain unaffordable for the average Wal-Mart employee. Wal-Mart’s most affordable health care option, the Value Plan, has a $3,000 deductible for family coverage and several other deductibles for prescription drug coverage and hospital procedures. Based on all of the premiums and deductibles in the so-called ‘Value’ plan, a part-time Wal-Mart employee could have to pay up to 58% of his/her salary for an individual plan and up to 93% for family coverage.

Most disturbingly, newly transitioned employees who take advantage of this special enrollment will lose any money they have already spent on their deductible and will once again have to pay the full $3,000 deductible.

“”For the sake of Wal-Mart’s workers, their families, and the American taxpayer, we call on Lee Scott and Wal-Mart to propose real health care changes that don’t dangerously discriminate against single, uninsured part-time workers and exclude health care coverage for spouses. Wal-Mart’s plan to expand health care coverage to employees while making it more unaffordable through lower pay and less hours is deceptive and a national disgrace,”” added Blank.

Based on the two leaked health care documents, Wal-Mart workers will face significant restrictions under the new health care changes, including:

1) Only uninsured part-time Wal-Mart workers, who also insure their dependents, are eligible to enroll during this special enrollment period.

  • “”If you are a peak-time hourly Associate who has been employed by Wal-Mart for more than two years and are not currently enrolled in any medical coverage option offered by the AHWP, you may enroll yourself in any of the available peak time medical coverage options (except HSA Qualified or HSA Qualified Performance plans), but only if you enroll your dependent children.”” (Memo: Summary of Material Modifications to Associates Health and Welfare Plan; p. 2)

2) Spouses of part-time associates will not be eligible during this enrollment period.

  • “”Your spouse is not eligible for Medical coverage.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 3)

3) Former full-time workers, now reduced to part-time workers, will lose an array of additional benefits.

  • “”Dental, Optional Life Insurance, Company-Paid Life Insurance, Dependent Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, Short-term Disability, Short-term Disability Plus, and Long-Term Disability – will stop at the end of the pay period in which you transition.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)

4) Former full-time Wal-Mart workers, now reduced to part-time workers, who change plans during this “”Special Enrollment”” period will lose credit for any money they have already spent against their deductible. Therefore, a worker could have to pay as much as $3,000 in deductibles twice.

  • “”If you switch Medical plans, or if you change your deductible during the Special Enrollment or within 60 days due to your transition, your annual deductible will start over. Amounts already incurred toward your annual deductible will not carry over to your new plan option or new deductible.”” (My Benefits: New Peak Time Benefits Making a Difference for You: page 4)

5) Wal-Mart made no changes to the cost of the deductible for family or individual coverage on any plans. Deductibles on Wal-Mart’s most affordable plan are as high as $3,000 for family coverage and $1,000 for individual coverage.

  • Copies of the two Wal-Mart health care documents describing these health care changes are available for download at www.WakeUpWalMart.com.
May 12, 2006

Secret Wal-Mart Memo Obtained by WakeUpWalMart.com Exposes Wal-Mart Front Group

Today’s New York Times reports on a ‘secret Wal-Mart memo’ obtained by WakeUpWalMart.com which shows how Wal-Mart is exerting corporate pressure to force suppliers to join a right-wing front group bought and paid for by Wal-Mart.

Unbelievably, though, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, Working Families for Wal-Mart, more accurately described as ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart,’ still claims that it is “”autonomous.”” But, the truth is the group is 100% controlled by Wal-Mart and run out of the same office as Wal-Mart’s war room. Even ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart’ steering committee member Martha Montoya, when asked if the organization had received money from anyone other than Wal-Mart said, “”No, not that I know of.””

“”This just exposes what a sham Wal-Mart’s publicity stunts have become. Wal-Mart has become so desperate it is even willing to cross the line and intimidate its suppliers to try and salvage Wal-Mart’s faltering public image,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com

The memo, authored by Terry Nelson (the former National Political Director for Bush-Cheney 2004), asks suppliers to join Wal-Mart’s front group because, “”Wal-Mart is under attack, and Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club suppliers have the power to do something about it and help protect their business.””

Unfortunately, Wal-Mart’s memo to suppliers makes no mention of the fact that Wal-Mart’s image is declining because the company pays poverty level wages, provides unaffordable health care, helps ship U.S. jobs overseas, is being sued for discrimination, and continues to get caught for child labor violations.

Rather than address these serious issues, Wal-Mart is now using its own personal right-wing front group to try and deceive the American people. The group, in conjunction with two right-wing firms, The Herald Group and Crosslink Strategies, is running a smoke and mirrors campaign, complete with paid steering committee members and canvassers, to create a false impression that there are people willing to defend the indefensible.

We hope this memo will expose ‘Wal-Mart for Wal-Mart’ for the sham that it is and will begin to force the company to address the real issues in this campaign. Until Wal-Mart changes, WakeUpWalMart.com, on behalf of the American people and its 231,000 real grassroots supporters, will continue to build the largest grassroots campaign to change a corporation in history proving the power we all have to change Wal-Mart and change America for the better.

To download a copy of the memo please visit www.WakeUpWalMart.com.

May 11, 2006

UFCW Applauds Vermont

Washington DC—Basic quality health care should be affordable to all people including families, children, the elderly and the chronically ill—regardless of how much money they make.   Yesterday, this vision became reality for thousands of hardworking Vermonters when, under pressure from state legislators, a broad coalition of health care advocates, and the people of Vermont, the Governor signed the Health Care Affordability Act into law.

America’s Agenda—a grassroots organization working for comprehensive health care reform on both state and federal levels—working together with key in-state partners was the driving force behind the reform legislation.

The law is the most far-reaching health care reform law enacted by any state in nearly thirty years. And it’s a groundbreaking victory for the people of Vermont, who, like many Americans—including 46 million uninsured—are worried about the costs, availability, and quality of health care.

The Vermont law will ensure access to affordable, comprehensive coverage to all uninsured Vermonters, regardless of income—including affordable ongoing treatments for people with chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. Cost containment measures will reduce insurance costs for all Vermonters. The cost-effective, streamlined system makes health the priority, not profits. And the law makes health care possible for everyone, instead of denying care to those most in need.

Health care is a national crisis that demands national attention. But until Capitol Hill commits to leading the way on health care reform, state-by-state initiatives like Vermont’s new law can be a model for other states. UFCW will continue to work with advocates like America’s Agenda to pass initiatives that draw blueprints for reform and create grassroots action networks that can achieve real health care reform at the national level.

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The UFCW represents 1.4 million workers in North America, with nearly 1 million working in grocery stores and 250,000 working in the meatpacking and other food processing industries. UFCW President Joe Hansen sits on the Congressionally mandated Citizen’s Health Care Working Group—a panel tasked with leading a nationwide debate on how to improve our health care system.

 

May 10, 2006

Statement on Wal-Mart providing inaccurate testimony to the FDIC regarding its bank application

The following can be attributed to Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com:

“”How many times is Wal-Mart going to mislead America? Whether the issue is Wal-Mart’s lack of affordable health care, gender discrimination, crime at its stores, child labor or shipping our jobs overseas, Wal-Mart consistently hides the truth and the American people pay the price.

Now, Wal-Mart has gone one step further. It appears Wal-Mart arrogantly lied to federal regulators, the national media and the American people on its banking application and thought it could get away with it. Wal-Mart’s inaccurate testimony raises serious questions about what else the company isn’t telling the FDIC. It is time for Wal-Mart to stop its pattern of deception, come clean with federal regulators, be honest with the American people and take responsibility for its actions.””

Wal-Mart testimony inaccurate on bank leases

WASHINGTON, May 9 (Reuters) – Wal-Mart gave inaccurate testimony to U.S. regulators considering its application to open a bank, wrongly describing a provision of some leases signed by banks in its stores, according to leases obtained by Reuters.

The inaccuracy involves testimony Wal-Mart Stores Inc. gave to support its statement that it has no plans to replace community banks now in its stores with bank branches of its own.

Last month, the company told the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the agency reviewing Wal-Mart’s application to start limited bank operations, that it has no plans to enter full-service banking, and it pointed to the leases signed by banks in its stores as evidence of its long-term plan to support independent banks.

Specifically, Wal-Mart told the FDIC that leases signed by banks were renewed at the discretion of the banks alone.

But documents seen by Reuters include a provision that requires both the bank and Wal-Mart to agree to renew.

According to industry sources, that provision is included in a handful, not all of the leases signed by Wal-Mart’s bank tenants. Wal-Mart told Reuters it was an oversight and that the testimony it gave to the FDIC it had believed to be true.

May 2, 2006

WAKEUPWALMART.COM RELEASES FIRST NATIONAL WAL-MART CRIME STUDY – “”IS WAL-MART SAFE?””

57 COMMUNITY GROUPS SIGN JOINT LETTER CALLING ON WAL-MART TO IMPROVE SECURITY BY MOTHER’S DAY

Washington, DC – Today, WakeUpWalMart.com, America’s campaign to change Wal-Mart, released the first national study on Wal-Mart and crime. The study, entitled “”Is Wal-Mart Safe?”” analyzed the official 2004 police incident reports (i.e. calls for police service) at 551 Wal-Mart store locations. Among the key findings of the study, include:

  • In 2004, police received 148,331 calls for service for the 551 Wal-Mart stores analyzed, averaging 269 reported police incidents per store.
  • For just the 551 stores sampled, there were 2,909 reported police calls for “”violent or serious crimes,”” including 4 homicides, 9 rapes or attempts, 23 kidnappings or attempts, 154 sex crimes, 550 robberies or attempts and 1,024 auto thefts.
  • Based on the number of reported police incidents for the sample, it is estimated police responded to nearly 1 million police incidents at Wal-Mart in 2004 costing taxpayers $77 million annually.
  • Wal-Mart stores have a significantly higher number of reported police incidents than nearby Target stores. For the sample, the average rate of reported police incidents at Wal-Mart stores was 400% higher than the average rate of incidents at nearby Target stores.

The full study “”Is Wal-Mart Safe?”” and the official police incident reports are available for download and review at www.WalMartCrimeReport.com.

“”The high number of reported police incidents at Wal-Mart stores is shocking and outrageous. Wal-Mart’s customers and the community have a right to know whether or not their Wal-Mart is safe. Wal-Mart should immediately fund an independent study to explore the issue of crime at Wal-Mart stores nationwide and immediately take the necessary steps, including putting in roving security patrols and staffing security cameras, to ensure the safety of its customers at every Wal-Mart store,”” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

WakeUpWalMart.com released its study, “”Is Wal-Mart Safe?”” as part of a nationwide initiative called “”Help Make Wal-Mart Safe by Mother’s Day.”” As part of the initiative, WakeUpWalMart.com and 57 community groups released a joint letter calling on Wal-Mart’s management to immediately address the public safety issues and concerns of its consumers – 70 percent of whom are women shoppers – by taking all of the necessary steps to improve security at all of its stores by Mother’s Day.

“”Public safety and crime are serious issues. Despite internal warnings about crime at some of Wal-Mart’s stores, it is clear Wal-Mart still has a high number of reported police incidents at too many stores. As our nation’s largest retailer, Americans deserve to know the truth about whether or not Wal-Mart is safe,”” added Blank.

As a service to the general public, WakeUpWalMart.com also launched a new website, WalMartCrimeReport.com. WalMartCrimeReport.com will collect and disseminate Wal-Mart crime data to the general public. The website allows customers and the general public to download copies of the official police incident reports sent to us by local police departments. The WalMartCrimeReport.com website will also provide a variety of documents that chronicle statements by Wal-Mart officials on public safety, including internal Wal-Mart memos on public safety issues.

WakeUpWalMart.com is a national movement of 225,000 Americans in all 50 states who have joined together to change Wal-Mart into a responsible and moral corporation.