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2005-04-05
Bentonville, AR. Wal-Mart Media Event News Fizzles; Union Launches New Offensive

Wal-Mart loves managed news, and their idea of the marketplace of free ideas is to invite a pre-selected group of journalists to a hotel room in Rogers, Arkansas, and try to convince reporters that the company has undergone an extreme makeover. Today, CEO Lee Scott entertained the media in this dog and pony show format, but they forgot the pony. The content was for the dogs. Although 100 journalists were invited to the made up "event", only 50 showed up, as Scott defended his company's lousy reputation as an employer. "Innovation and competition tend to change the status quo," Scott said, according to an Associated Press report. Another Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona suggested to reporters that they clear their minds of previous articles about the company and "start with a clean slate." Hypnotic notion, that. All of this was apparently designed to resuscitate Wal-Mart's sluggish stock price, which hovered around $49 a share recently. Wal-Mart tried to rationalize the company's unimpressive same store sales figures, which are now around 4% a year, compared to 15% or 16% in the 1980s. The company explained that because it is saturating so many markets with closely packed stores, that they are cannibalizing their own sales per square foot. However, densely packed stores increases the company's market share in the area, and total sales increase. But even the Associated Press had a hard time making "news" out of this kind of scripted event, because there was no real content to what Wal-Mart summoned reporters to hear. As a counter-protest, activists and elected officials from Inglewood, California staged their own media event from the same Rogers hotel. The Inglewood group asked Wal-Mart to sign a "community benefits agreement" that would guarantee good wages, affordable health care and protections for small businesses. Despite a voter defeat in Inglewood, Wal-Mart is still trying to build a superstore in that community. By contrast, the United Food & Commercial Workers announced today the launching of a new national effort to disenchant Wal-Mart shoppers, and keep them out of the aisles. The "Wake Up Wal-Mart" campaign will feature a new website, www.WakeupWalMart.com and the campaign's blog "http://blog.WakeUpWalmart.com" will be at the center of this new grassroots movement that "will lead and revolutionize the national fight to change Wal-Mart." "This is a new day and a new strategy in the fight against Wal-Mart," stated Paul Blank, the new director for the Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign. "Wal-Mart's greed puts profits before people. Today, we are forming a grassroots movement to empower millions of Americans to ask Wal-Mart to put people first." The rise of Wal-Mart as the world's largest retailer has come at a high cost to our society. Traditional organizing campaigns are too limited for a greedy, global company who is willing to cut its nose to spite its face rather than do the right thing and stand up for people. For too long, Wal-Mart's business practice has been to lower our wages, pressure suppliers to ship our jobs overseas, shift their health care costs onto American taxpayers and ask communities to give over $1 billion in subsidies for their expansion. All across America, consumers and taxpayers are waking up to the high cost of Wal-Mart's poverty wages, reliance on taxpayer funded state health care programs and devastating impact on communities. Wal-Mart's values are not America's values," stated Blank. "There is only one force powerful enough to change the largest corporation in the world, the largest retailer in the world and the largest employer in the world-the American people. We are Wal-Mart's consumers and it is time for Wal-Mart to wake up and start doing what is right for its employees, our families, and our country." The Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign will give people the tools they need to join together in common purpose in order to change the largest corporation in the world. The campaign will utilize an array of organizing strategies, innovative media, a blog and other internet tools that have been used successfully in previous political and grassroots campaigns. The website, WakeupWalMart.com, will offer concerned citizens, community leaders, activists, and workers an online vehicle where they can learn the truth about Wal-Mart's record, as well as become an active member in this new grassroots movement. The "Take Action" center of the website will even feature a new tool for community leaders to Adopt-A-Store and begin forming community coalitions around every Wal-Mart location in the United States. The website will also be used to form a new group of current and former Wal-Mart employees called the Wal-Mart Veterans Association. This will be a place for former and current employees to join together and share their Wal-Mart experience. In addition, the website will feature a blog about Wal-Mart that will be updated throughout the day on news and stories related to Wal-Mart. It will become a vital resource for the millions of Americans who believe Wal-Mart needs to be changed, the UFCW said.




What you can do: Bad day for Wal-Mart. They gather all these reporters in a small town hotel, on the same day that a new, national campaign is launched against them. Looks like many bad media days ahead for the world's most reviled retailer. The battle against Wal-Mart will be won or lost in the aisles. If you are in Wal-Mart's aisles, you are helping them to win.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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