Associated Press asked what I thought about news that leaders of union-backed WakeUpWalMart are leaving to help John Edwards run for president. Director Paul Blank and spokesman Chris Kofinis are expected to join the former senator’s campaign team within the next few days.
Funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers, WakeUpWalMart.com is the most aggressive of the anti-Wal-Mart organizations. It has attacked the company through television ads, public rallies and constant publicity. It also got presidential candidates like Edwards and Senator Barack Obama to criticize Wal-Mart as representing everything that’s wrong with America.
On one hand, it’s not surprising that Blank and Kofinis are leaving, given their history as political operatives. Blank helped run Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential run, while Kofinis helped orchestrate retired general Wesley Clark’s campaign.
One the other hand, many pundits think their departures mean that union activism to influence public opinion against Wal-Mart has accomplished all that it can.
Two years after WakeUpWalMart and Wal-Mart Watch launched their political-style campaigns, Wal-Mart is indeed a different company. It has responded to reputation attacks with its own PR-savvy initiatives. It lowered heath insurance premiums and demanded that suppliers meet higher environmental standards. Chased out of Chicago, it became an economic hero to a distressed community across the street, creating a presence that supports the area’s unique economic interests and shopping habits. It even replaced its disgustingly lowbrow and ironically insulting “May I help you?” employee vests with khaki-and-polo shirt ensembles.
The union-sponsored campaigns helped change how Wal-Mart does business. But they haven’t changed Wal-Mart into a unionized company.
Perhaps Blink and Kofinis think they’ve done all they can as an activist group whose pro-union agenda is hardly a secret. Maybe they figure they can do more to change Wal-Mart through a well-coiffed multimillionaire populist presidential candidate whose multimillionaire backers include the CEO of Costco, Wal-Mart’s arch competitor.
Maybe they think this is how they go from rhetoric to relevance.
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- Associated Press | 2 leaders leave anti-Wal-Mart group for Edwards campaign
- Scatterbox | Despite spin, Wal-Mart consumer poll points in all directions.
- Scatterbox | Wal-Mart must use advertising to keep its reputation from becoming an even bigger liability.
- Scatterbox | Wal-Mart index