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Wal-Mart's Reforms Bring its Critics to the Bargaining Table

Wal-Mart's Reforms Bring its Critics to the Bargaining Table

May 8, 2008 —

The public relations war waged by groups like Wal-Mart Watch and Wake Up Wal-Mart on the country's largest employer—and for a long time, biggest corporate villain—appears to be entering détente. Nearly half of the staffers at the two organizations have been let go, and Wal-Mart has in turn, scaled back its public relations efforts—which were ramped up several years ago to engender good will in the face of heavy criticism.

The cooling represents a major coup for Wal-Mart. Consumer advocacy groups, who were able to capture public attention throughout the last decade as resentment built over Wal-Mart's role in outsourcing and forcing its smaller competitors out of business, are now left to reconcile their goals with a departure from the spotlight.

Much of the draw down stems from the major steps Wal-Mart has taken to repair its image in the U.S., with efforts to green its supply chain, and modest improvements to labor conditions and compensation in the stores themselves. As The New York Times reported several weeks ago, Wal-Mart is circulating a memo written by Emory University Professor Kenneth E. Thorpe, proposing sweeping health care reforms. This memo was originally commissioned by Wal-Mart Watch and given to the company in an apparent show of good faith. It’s hard to imagine this sort of cohesiveness happening in the past. It's also important to point out that the workers in China who manufacture Wal-Mart's cheap goods are still waiting for their share of this newly discovered benevolence.

Critiques have necessarily become more nuanced as anti-Wal-Mart sentiment becomes less common in the media. How do consumer advocacy groups maintain their prominence over the long term? Many seem to have decided to  take a seat at a bargaining table that wouldn't exist if not for their dedication over the years.

Comment on this article:

Wal mart is a really bad

Submitted by Anonymous on November 28, 2008 - 05:09.

Wal mart is a really bad company. Feeling Blue has called a boycott of them due to Wal-Mart's transgressions of local, state and US laws, anti-union activities, support of overseas sweat shops, and adjusting its retail philosophy to accord social conservative priorities.
Ethical Consumer Magazine has lots more info on supermarkets and the damage that they cause both socially and environmentally. Its worth checking out their website ( to see what they are saying.

'Wal-Mart's reps complain

Submitted by Anonymous on December 30, 2008 - 19:19.

'Wal-Mart's reps complain that its sheer size makes it the easiest target in the world. Its size, however, also turns any of its questionable practices into problems of tremendous, even global, scale. A Pulitzer Prize–winning 2003 Los Angeles Times series documented how Wal-Mart's entry into a market depresses wages generally and shuts down competition, eliminating jobs. It tracked how the company's demand for ever lower prices from suppliers pushes manufacturing overseas, where faster, cheaper production is squeezed from third-world workforces.' (

Wal-Marts give me the

Submitted by Anonymous on September 16, 2009 - 10:05.

Wal-Marts give me the willies anyway. I'd much rather shop at a local store where the proprietors are part of the neighborhood.

After the hugely public and

Submitted by Anonymous on February 5, 2010 - 11:11.

After the hugely public and all to frequent PR nightmares Wal-Mart has faced in the last few years, Wal-Mart has set off a 'massive' public relations review. It seems they are looking for a new company to represent them to focus on online market and social media, and various other duties that come along with working for the world's largest retailer.

it is a pity for Wal-mart,

Submitted by Anonymous on March 2, 2010 - 01:17.

it is a pity for Wal-mart, which is so popular here at our community.

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