The Center for American Progress casts a critical eye on Wal-Mart's new PR offensive:
Yesterday, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott launched a public relations campaign aimed to restore the company's tarnished image. He's begun lashing out at the company's critics, claiming Wal-Mart is the victim of a misinformation campaign. Displaying its trademark light touch, Wal-Mart placed 100 full-page advertisements in major newspapers laying out its side of the story. The advertisement declares, "everyone is entitled to their own opinions about our company, but they are not entitled to make up their own facts." But Wal-Mart presents an incomplete and dishonest account of how it treats its employees...Wal-Mart brags about the generous benefits package it extends to employees. But the company fails to mention that "only 40% of the company's one million U.S. employees are currently enrolled in its healthcare plan, leaving close to 600,000 of its employees acquiring health insurance elsewhere — or not at all."...In the advertisement, Wal-Mart continues on to praise itself for paying "almost twice the federal minimum wage" to its hourly store associates and listing the many benefits that come with employment. However, wages for many Wal-Mart employees are so low that they are forced to rely on government assistance – especially for health care. In Washington State, subsidized insurance for the workers who aren't covered by their employers costs taxpayers "several million dollars annually."...In Georgia, a new AFL-CIO study found 10,000 children of Wal-Mart employees were enrolled in Georgia's public health insurance program. As comparison, the next highest employer was Publix, with 734 children enrolled... Wal-Mart claims that "seventy-four percent of [its] hourly associates in the United States work full-time." What the company chooses not to address is the nearly 40 wage-and-hour lawsuits currently filed against them...The self-aggrandizing advertisement also highlights the claim that Wal-Mart promotes "from within." It just doesn't get into the messy details of who gets the "tap on the shoulder." According to a report citing findings from a 2003 article in The Financial Times, "two-thirds of the company's hourly workers are female [but] women hold only one-third of managerial positions and constitute less than 15 percent of store managers."...Of the many "perks" that should come with being employed at Wal-Mart, workers' right to organize – internationally "recognized as a core labor standard and a basic human right" – is not mentioned. This glaring absence is not a mistake: "Wal-Mart has consistently stated that it will not bargain with any union, and has repeatedly taken drastic steps to prevent workers from organizing in stores across North America." Managers at Wal-Marts even have a "hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize." The various strategies that Wal-Mart has employed to get around unions have resulted in the company being hit with over 100 charges, complaints, and rebukes by United Food and Commercial Workers, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and the United States government. Despite facing grand jury investigations, National Labor Review Board judges, and class action suits, behind closed doors, Wal-Mart applauds its "union avoidance strategy."


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