Wal-Mart enlists N.H. workers over political criticism

Ahead of upcoming elections and primaries, retail giant Wal-Mart is making efforts to arm its employees with information to combat what it says are “factual errors” made by candidates about Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart’s 8,000 New Hampshire employees as well as 18,000 in Iowa, 27,000 in South Carolina and 12,000 in Nevada will be receiving what the retailer calls “fact check” letters.

Wal-Mart has taken this step to counter what it said was “the decision of a few elected leaders and candidates for office to attack the company at union-funded publicity events this month in Iowa. This is the first step in an ongoing effort to educate the company’s associates about candidates’ remarks and the factual errors they may make in talking about Wal-Mart.”

In a statement released earlier this week by the company, Vice President of Corporate Communications Bob McAdam said, “The paid critics and the politicians who join them at these publicity stops are attacking the wrong company and should stop telling working families where to shop and work. We’re disappointed that these politicians are speaking out without paying attention to the facts and will be sure to inform our associates across Iowa and in other key states that these candidates are not telling the truth about Wal-Mart. We certainly hope these political leaders will accept our invitation to tour our stores, to talk with our associates, and to learn first-hand the truth about our company.”

According to the Bentonville, Ark. retailer, Wal-Mart has created 240,000 jobs nationwide, pays an average full-time wage of just over $10 per hour, and offers health coverage to full- and part-time employees starting at $11 per month.

The average New Hampshire hourly wage for regular, full-time employees is $11.41, said company officials.

A survey for Working Families for Wal-Mart, a pro-Wal-Mart activist group, was conducted by bipartisan polling firm RT Strategies in December 2005, and found that 71 percent of those polled “believed Wal-Mart is good for consumers” and 63 percent of union households “hold the same belief.”

The poll also found that 60 percent of respondents and 44 of union households said “the campaign against Wal-Mart is not a good use of union dues.”

The poll results are posted on Working Families for Wal-Mart’s Web site, www.forwalmart.com, which states 1,000 adults nationwide were questioned with an additional sample of 330 union households conducted by telephone from Dec. 8-11 and 15-18, 2005. It has a ±3.1 percent margin of error.

“It’s surprising to see candidates take part in attacks that are rejected even by the base voters they need to win,” McAdam said. “We believe that playing to a small, increasingly special-interest audience at the expense of working families will prove to be a failed strategy.”

Dan Fogleman, senior manager of public relations at Wal-Mart, did not give a specific date when the letters would be sent to New Hampshire employees, but said the voter education effort would continue throughout the fall election season.

Copies of letters are available at www.walmartfacts.com. — CINDY KIBBE

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