Nov. 1, 2005 – Opposition to Wal-Mart, the worldâ€™s largest retailer, is escalating as a coalition of the companyâ€™s detractors prepares to launch a week-long series of grassroots actions nationwide from November 13 - 19. Led by WalMartWatch, an umbrella group of liberal and progressive organizations founded by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) head Andrew Stern, tens of thousands are expected to take part in organized discussions and protests to be held at community centers and churches across the country, as well as outside many of Wal-Martâ€™s 3,600 stores.
Organizers are calling their event Higher Expectations Week, a jab at Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, who was once quoted as saying, "High expectations are the key to everything." Organizers say they want to step up pressure on Wal-Mart to improve conditions for employees and neighboring communities.
"The goal," said Stern in a recent letter addressed to SEIU members, "is to get the world's largest corporation to address issues such as decent health care benefits, the right for workers to have a voice in their workplace, and to address smart-growth issues in our communities."
The highlight of the week: 3,500 house parties featuring screenings of a highly critical new documentary by Robert Greenwald, who previously directed Outfoxed, a damning examination of political bias at Fox News. Greenwaldâ€™s newest film, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices, is expected to open on Novenber 4 in New York and Los Angeles, and will eventually show in at least 19 countries and all 50 states.
Wal-Mart has already responded by slamming the filmâ€™s trailer, which the retailer says presents at least three inaccuracies. Wal-Mart has countered the recent spate of negative publicity by hiring a new PR firm, and issuing a 10-page press kit for reporters that defends the companyâ€™s business practices and details the companyâ€™s grievances with the film.
A second film, Why Wal-Mart Works: And Why That Drives Some People Crazy, takes a more favorable look at the Wal-Mart corporation and is being pushed through editing so it can open around the same time as the Greenwald film. Director Ron Galloway claims his film cost only $80,000 to make and that he received no funding or support from Wal-Mart.
A press release advertising the film, however, can be found on Wal-Martâ€™s website, along with an open letter from Galloway to Greenwald challenging him to show the two films together.