Activists across the country are organizing an effort to keep shoppers out of Wal-Mart stores this fall when they stock up on back-to-school supplies. Wal-Mart heir John Walton is the leading figure in U. S. education privatization causes, like charter schools and school vouchers. Aside from his personal fortune of $18 to $19 billion that he uses to write checks to various pro-voucher organizations, John Walton has great influence over how the family’s philanthropic foundation uses its considerable resources. While the Walton Family Foundation is “only” a billion dollar fund, it is expected that as much as $20 billion of the family’s more than $90 billion fortune will be transferred to the WFF in the next few years due to tax reasons. In 2003, the Walton Family Foundation gave $10.5 million to Children First America and another $1.3 million to American Education Reform Council. John Walton sat on the boards of both these organizations, which have now merged into the Alliance for School Choice, on whose board John now sits. From their personal checkbooks, John and his brother Jim Walton gave about 2/3rds of all the 2004 contributions raised by one PAC that supports independent campaign expenditures, All Children Matter. This PAC funneled the $10 million it raised into at least a dozen state legislative races. John gave another $1 million to a Washington State ballot initiative on charter schools (it lost). In response, a community organizing effort, led by internet activist Joe Trippi and labor veteran Bob Muehlenkamp, have joined with actor Danny Glover to encourage shoppers to stay away from Wal-Mart for school supplies. Their new website, www.changeamerica.com , asks consumers to pledge to help organize local campaigns over the summer, then choose alternative shops for school supplies. The site has a locator for alternative places to shop, by just plugging in a zip code. Trippi is advocating that people ‘plug in and sign on’ to begin to teach Wal-Mart a powerful lesson about maintaining a strong public education system in America. In an open letter to shoppers, Danny Glover writes, “we can do something about… the corrosive, drive-to-the-bottom approach some rogue corporations take toward the people they employ. The most obvious symbol: Wal-Mart. The world’s — and this country’s — largest employer. Its tactics are shocking, when you find out about them. It puts kids around the world at risk. Wal-Mart requires its suppliers to import goods from China and other impoverished nations where young people work horrendous hours for little pay. In this country, it was found guilty in April of violating child labor laws. Wal-Mart exposed 85 of its own employees under 18 to dangerous machinery such as chain saws, cardboard balers and forklifts. It got a light fine, essentially a slap on the wrist. Now it faces the largest class action discrimination suit in history — for how it treats its female employees… Wal-Mart is one of the most viciously anti-union companies in America. It takes two Wal-Mart jobs just to earn above poverty wages. 600,000 of its employees can’t afford their health care plan. Consequently, the taxpayers in every state wind up paying for those employees’ health care, either through Medicaid, or through higher premiums for their own health care plans.” Glover urges “teachers and parents to send Wal-Mart a simple, loud, clear message: ‘Because of your behavior, I’m going to do my shopping for back-to-school supplies some place else this fall.'”
To get involved in this new campaign, go to www.changeamerica.com. This campaign is endorsed by Sprawl-Busters, which encourages you to stay out of Wal-Mart aisles, now, and during the fall back-to-school campaign.