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4/06/2005

Wal-Mart's expensive PR campaign cannot hide the naked truth

Wal-Mart's management meets with media today, in an effort to clean up the company's badly soiled image. This unprecedented two-day event takes place at company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, of course. It is part of the retail giant's expensive public relations campaign, with which it tries to defend itself against growing criticism against its behaviour.
Once again, instead of changing the way that it treats its own workers, and others, Wal-Mart tries to buy a better reputation. This is like in the famous children's story by H C Andersen about the emperor without clothes. Only he himself believed that he was wearing the finest of dresses, told so by his flattering advisors, while the public saw the real emperor, naked and exposed.

In only a short time during the first months of this year, Wal-Mart has succeeded to destroy whatever effects its media campaign may have had.

Wal-Mart has decided to close a store in Canada rather than accept that its workers join their trade union UFCW and negotiate a collective agreement.

Wal-Mart has been caught for illegally using children to work with dangerous tasks, and for a sweetheart deal with the George W. Bush government which effectively hinders labour inspectors to catch it.
Wal-Mart has been exposed in a large number of US states as the worst employer when it comes to denying affordable health insurance from its employees and their children, regularly topping the list of companies whose workers have to depend on tax-payer financed healthcare.

Wal-Mart has been fined heavily for exploiting undeclared migrant workers at substandard rates and under poor conditions.

Wal-Mart is engaged in the largest class action lawsuit ever in the United States, for discrimination of its women workers.

And on and on, the list could be much longer. What is dangerous, of course, is that the Bentonville-based retail multinational is leading the way for efforts by big business to cut wages and social benefits, to relegate growing number of workers and their families to the ranks of the working poor and to deny them affordable health care - all this driven by the pure and naked corporate greed of the largest company in the world, and its super-rich owner family, the Waltons.

Wal-Martization is an attack against and a risk for organised civil society and cohesion. This is why communities, religious and civil groups, trade unions, moderate political leaders and others are stepping up their cooperation and action to defend the right of families to security and dignity. Wal-Mart's big money and expensive PR campaigns will not defeat this popular movement and community force.

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