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2006-09-19
Bentonville, AR. Wal-Mart Wants To Use Workers As Political Force

In the last major national campaign cycle in 2004, Wal-Mart's political action committee, known as the "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., PAC for Responsible Government" was one of the largest corporate PACs in the nation, and 86% of the money it raised went to Republicans. The company has been seeking to give money to both sides of the aisle, as long as the candidates they contribute to are seen as friendly to the giant retailer. "We are supportive of incumbents and people that are generally appreciative of the role business plays in the country and open to discussing those issues," a Wal-Mart spokesman said in 2004. Today, Wal-Mart released a press statement from Arkansas that said it was working hard with the League of Women Voters to mobilize the company's 1.3 million employees to get out and vote during this Primary mid-election season. And just so no one doubts the company's intention to get the attention of national politicians, the company made a point of saying in its press release that it has workers in all the early Primary states. "Wal-Mart employs over 1.3 million Americans over the age of 18l," the company's press release said, "and has a significant number of associates in states that play pivotal roles in national elections. For example, there are 94,163 associates in Florida, 49,724 in Ohio, 47,904 in Pennsylvania, 17,273 in Iowa and 7,933 in New Hampshire." At this point, Wal-Mart is not saying it tells its workers how they should vote -- just that they want them registered. But the obvious pitch to elected officials is that Wal-Mart workers can be a force to be reckoned with. After 44 years in business, Wal-Mart has just discovered the political clout of its workforce. "As the nation's largest private employer," CEO Lee Scott says, "one way that we can contribute to our communities is to help our associates register to vote and participate in our democracy."

What you can do: One has to wonder about the relationship between Wal-Mart's new-found interest in the League of Women Voters, and its dramatic increase in PR spending to repair its damaged image as a corporate citizen. Registering people to vote is about as Apple Pie an activity as they come. Wal-Mart could easily have sampled its workforce to report how many non-registered workers it employs, or whether they are recent voters. As if their corporate lobbying of Congress was not enough, now they are telling politicians that they have workers on the ground in key Primary states. The problem is, if Wal-Mart workers truly start to educate themselves about politics, and issues like livable wages and health care, they could be a force that turns around to bite its master. Wal-Mart is working overtime to find somewhere among the rubble of its bombed-out public image, the unbroken appearance of a Corporate Boy Scout. But the fact that Wal-Mart has 7,933 workers in New Hampshire is not likely to turn many heads in the granite state. But Wal-Mart is determined to nurture the image that they are a vibrant political player, and their workers are going to be a political force in the next election. Today's press release was designed more for public relations, than for political relations. For earlier stories on a similar subject, search Newsflash by "political contributions."










 
 
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