Article Treats Wal-Mart Critics as Labor Experts

Article Treats Wal-Mart Critics as Labor Experts
Post promotes the union side in the battle against Southern retailing giant.

By Dan Gainor
May 31, 2005

     If you want to look for the union label, you need only turn to the front page of The Washington Post business section. The May 31, 2005 issue of the Post relied almost exclusively on pro-union and anti-Wal-Mart voices for a one-sided story about battling the retail giant.

     The 1,400-word Post article, headlined Logging On With A New Campaign, was written by Amy Joyce. It focused on yet another new campaign against Wal-Mart this one Internet-based. The campaign was the brainchild of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which hired former employees from three different failed Democratic presidential campaigns to find new and creative ways to promote unionization and attack the company.

     Joyce used only one comment from a Wal-Mart spokeswoman just 80 words out of the 1,400 in the story. The articles two outside labor experts were both pro-union. The first to comment was Nelson N. Lichtenstein, whom Joyce labeled editor of the upcoming book Wal-Mart: Template for 21st Century Capitalism? and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Joyce never mentioned Lichtensteins anti-Wal-Mart history.

     According to the Houston Press of Oct. 30, 2003, he argues that Wal-Mart's strategy of low wages and high turnover creates a culture of anti-unionism. Lichtensteins name also appeared on anti-Wal-Mart petition supporting the Canadian branch of the UFCWs efforts to unionize the company in Canada. The March 30, 2005, press release about the petition cited leftist professor Noam Chomsky among the other signers. The petition read, in part: In order to conform to international human rights standards, Wal-Mart must cease its active opposition to unionization

     The other outside expert was Kate L. Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. In the Sept. 3, 2001, issue of the liberal magazine The Nation, Bronfenbrenner wrote a piece on how unions need to change their methods so they can organize more effectively. That article, Changing to Organize, included a strong pro-union position: If manufacturing is not organized, there will be nothing to stop the race to the bottom in wages, benefits and working conditions for all organized and unorganized workers in all industries, said Bronfenbrenner. She also appeared in an Oct. 28, 2002, issue of Business Week claiming that companies fire union activists in one-fourth of all union recruitment drives.

     The article also relied on comments from five members of the Internet campaign called Wake-Up Wal-Mart and described them as former staffers with the Howard Dean, Wesley K. Clark and John F. Kerry presidential campaigns. By linking the group to three different political campaigns, Joyce portrayed the group as a cross section of Democrats. While technically true, three of the five worked for the left-wing Dean campaign including Deans former political director Paul Blank. A fourth, Chris Kofinis helped originate the campaign but also did outreach to Nader voters. Only one 25-year-old blogger had ties to the actual Democratic presidential nominee.