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2006-10-15
Chicago, IL. Jesse Jackson Says Wal-Mart Trying To Buy Off Black Critics

Silence is golden. But can gold buy silence? A report in today's Louisiana Weekly quotes Jesse Jackson, Sr., president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, as charging that Wal-Mart is trying to buy off its critics in the black community. "Rainbow/PUSH has criticized Wal-Mart openly and publicly and consistently and they've tried to virtually throw money at us," Jackson told the newspaper. Jackson has refused to take Wal-Mart money. "I think they want to leverage our organization. I think they want to leverage us into silence. And, I'm not being self-righteous, but we feel that we ought to be the last one to stand if it comes to that." Research by the National Newspaper Publisher's Association shows that Wal-Mart's charitable contributions to Black organizations in recent years has dramatically risen, from $325,000 in 2001, to $1,702,500 in 2005. Wal-Mart's giving to Black organizations increased by 424% over the past five years while Wal-Mart's overall public contributions increased by only 105%. The largest increase in Black spending came in 2004, when Wal-Mart was hit with the largest workplace bias lawsuit in U. S. history. That was the same year the company formed an office of diversity. This year, according to the NNPA, Wal-Mart contributed $1 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for scholarships and internships for Black students; $5 million to the National Urban League, $1.5 Million to the United Negro College Fund, and a total of $500,000 to minority journalism scholarship programs at 10 universities. The Louisiana Weekly noted that none of the major Black organizations receiving Wal-Mart funds have publicly criticized the $300 billion dollar a-year retail giant as it has mounted a civil rights record with millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements. Mark Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said, "What I have said to them in meetings is that Wal-Mart needs to get a goal of being the champion of diversity. It needs to be the best at everything. I think it's about time that Wal-Mart expands its philanthropy into the African-American community. I welcome it." NAACP President Bruce Gordon says he met last month with Mayor Richard Daley to stop the veto of the fair wage law that would have required big-box stores to pay employees at least $10 an hour plus $3 in fringe benefits by mid-2010. Gordon denied that Wal-Mart money has compromised the positions the NAACP took. He says to receive funding from Wal-Mart while also holding the store accountable "is like having our cake and eating it too." A spokesman for Wal-Mart Watch said that "Wal-Mart's political contributions can't make up for their record of discrimination law suits, EEOC violations, and other race issues. These organizations have an obligation to continue to hold Wal-Mart accountable." There are 50 wage and hour class action lawsuits pending against Wal-Mart, according to Wal-Mart Watch. The newspaper noted the case of Tommy Armstrong, a former driver for Wal-Mart's Searcy, Ark. Distribution center, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Wal-Mart's truck drivers are only 3% Black. Armstrong, who is Black, claims he applied for the job six years in a row and was turned down every time while given obscure reasons for his rejection. The lead plaintiff in the largest workplace bias lawsuit in U. S. history, Betty Dukes, is a Black woman. As for Jesse Jackson, he says he will continue to refuse to accept money from Wal-Mart. "I believe that we must be a voice of conscience."

What you can do: The Louisiana Weekly story failed to mention that Wal-Mart hired noted civil rights advocate Andrew Young as a public relations representative. But Young resigned from his post six months later after making remarks that themselves were considered racist. It took Wal-Mart 42 years to create an office of diversity, and it is now spending big money to woo Black and Hispanic constituencies. But at the operational level, its record on racial discrimination tells another story -- one of exploitation and second class treatment of its minority workers. Betty Dukes, the lead figure in the gender discrimination lawsuit, also has a racial discrimination lawsuit pending against the company. For earlier stories on this topic, search Newsflash by "racial."










 
 
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