September 1, 2009

UFCW, Partners Announce New Agenda Challenging Walmart to Change Practices for the Sake of the American Economy

Washington, DC – UFCW International Vice President and Director Pat O’Neill today announced a new national comprehensive American values-driven agenda to hold Walmart accountable to its workers, our communities and the planet.  He was joined by Nelson Lichtenstein, author of The Retail Revolution: How Walmart Created a Brave New World of Business, and Kim Bobo, Executive Director of Interfaith Worker Justice on a call to launch a broad coalition of labor, environmental and community groups who are calling on Walmart to join them in supporting the core American values of worker rights, quality jobs, equal opportunity, corporate responsibility and a healthy environment.

“Labor Day is an important time to reflect on the state of the American workplace and worker.  As the world’s largest retailer, and America’s number one private employer, Walmart has the largest, most profound impact on jobs and on our economy,” O’Neill said.  “Nobody wants an economy where workers earn wages that can’t support a family. Nobody wants an economy where people who go to work everyday and work hard have to turn to public assistance for basic needs.

“The Department of Labor last week released a report showing that the retail sector will see tremendous growth in the coming years, and it is up to all of us to determine what kinds of jobs those will be.  We are trying to engage Walmart, not isolate it.  With 1.4 million Americans working in its stores, Walmart bears a unique responsibility to its workers and our communities, and we’re asking them to embrace this challenge.”

On the conference call, O’Neill issued direct challenges to Walmart in five key areas:  worker rights, quality jobs, equal opportunity, corporate responsibility and a healthy environment.  He then laid out next steps for how the coalition, led by the UFCW, will hold Walmart accountable for those challenges, and to the ideals it puts forth in its advertising.

The full American Values Agenda for Change at Walmart can be viewed at

Additionally, Lichtenstein asserted Walmart’s vast impact on the American economy.

“When a company gets to be as big as Wal-Mart and employs so many workers – more than any other private enterprise in the world – it is no longer a ‘private’ entity,” Lichtenstein said. “It sets the wage and benefit standard for every other mass retailer and influences the business practices of just about every firm in America’s huge service sector. So Wal-Mart is part of this country’s debate: on health care, wages, equal employment, and the role of trade unionism in our democracy.”

Coalition members include:  AFL-CIO, Change to Win, Sierra Club, Campaign for America’s Future, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Consumers League, AFSCME, American Rights at Work, Communications Workers of America, Interfaith Worker Justice, LIUNA, National Labor Coordinating Committee, Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Auto Workers, United Farmer Workers and United Steel Workers.

As a part of the launch of this important new campaign, will be releasing two new television advertisements called “Common Sense Economics Rules”  calling on Walmart to offer quality, affordable health care coverage to all its employees. Both ads highlight Walmart’s failure to cover 700,000 of its employees, nearly half of its workforce. They end with the message “Walmart can afford to be a better employer; Now would be a good time to start.”

The ads can be viewed at: