(CNSNews.com) - Wal-Mart has long been under fire from labor unions for fighting attempts to unionize its employees, but a conservative ethics group Tuesday accused the retail giant of trying in recent years to appeal to liberal interests and "cowering" under pressure from activists.
"Despite standing up to union bullying, the company does little to defend the free market principles that have made it so successful," the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) said in a study examining the corporation's policies over the last three years.
"Cowering to activist pressure, Wal-Mart has over the last three years become a strident advocate of environmentalism, affirmative action, and homosexual rights in an attempt to quell some of the politically charged criticism," it said. (Social conservatives have blasted Wal-Mart for joining the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.)
NLPC director of policy John Carlisle, who authored the study, told Cybercast News Service that Wal-Mart had become a "blatant shill for the environmental movement."
"For obvious reasons Wal-Mart is an unusually influential corporation. And starting two, three years ago Wal-Mart started to aggressively support a variety of liberal causes, especially the environment," he said.
"They have completely got on board the global warming band wagon," Carlisle added. "It is scientifically dubious that global warming is even occurring, but as far as Lee Scott, the CEO, is concerned it is a done deal."
In October 2005, Scott said Wal-Mart's goals were to solely use renewable energy, to create zero waste materials, and to sell environmentally friendly products that sustain natural resources.
"What is especially disturbing is that Wal-Mart is pressuring its vast army of 50,000 suppliers to adhere to its environmental mandates," Carlisle said. "This could have some very negative ramifications for many businesses. Many large businesses can adhere to environmental mandates, but many small- and medium-sized businesses cannot."
Carlisle said he did not believe the leftward shift signaled a change in the company's principles.
"This is not about principles, it is about trying to silence some of the left-wing criticism [directed at] the company," Carlisle said. "They've been on the defensive for three or four years for alleged labor malpractices."
"I think it's going to fail," he said of the tactic. "Wal-Mart is not going to be able to pry the environmentalists away from the labor unions, which is what they are trying to do -- isolate the unions."
Joy Bernstein, press secretary for Wal-Mart Watch, one of the groups whose goal is to force Wal-Mart to unionize, had a different view:
"We believe Wal-Mart is trying, through marketing, to bring a different demographic to shop at their stores because they are faced with declining sales and weakened stock," she told Cybercast News Service.
"While we applaud their environmental promises, we believe they would be better served by treating their workers with respect, paying them a living wage, and offering them affordable healthcare."
"To be quite honest, if they were trying to appeal to the left -- truly appeal to the left -- they would be changing their policies," she said.
"Their promises don't mean anything to anyone. If Wal-Mart truly wanted to appeal to the left they would treat their workers better."
Wal-Mart did not respond to multiple invitations to react to the report.
See Earlier Stories:
Wal-Mart Risks Heat for Supporting Global Warming Project (Nov. 22, 2006)
Wal-Mart Counts Some Same-Sex Couples as 'Immediate Family Members' (Jan. 28, 2005)
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