- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

One of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s most vociferous union-funded critics is taking its campaign against the world’s largest retailer on the road with a cross-country bus tour from New York to Seattle.

The tour begins tomorrow and will feature several Democratic politicians.

WakeUpWalMart.com, created last year by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, will visit 35 cities in 19 states for 35 days of rallies, town-hall meetings and state-fair visits to back its calls on Wal-Mart for higher pay and better health insurance for workers.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., dismissed the tour as a “political stunt” and said the group was attacking the wrong company.

“Wal-Mart offers associates $23-per-month health plans, and in some places as low as $11 per month, creates tens of thousands of jobs per year and is selling more organic and environmentally friendly products,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said.

Unions should let working families decide for themselves where to shop, Mr. Tovar said.

WakeUpWalMart.com said Democratic politicians appearing at some of the stops will include Rep. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a candidate for U.S. Senate; U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont of Connecticut; Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack; and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, a 2004 vice-presidential candidate.

The group approached Republicans as well but received no response, said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com.

WakeUpWalMart.com and Wal-Mart Watch began separate campaigns last year to pressure Wal-Mart for change after failing for years to organize its stores. Wal-Mart Watch is backed by the Service Employees International Union. Both groups say they want to pressure Wal-Mart into becoming a better employer, not run it out of business.

In response, Wal-Mart hired a team of about 35 consultants at Edelman, one of the world’s largest independently owned public relations company, as well as lobbyists in Washington.

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