Wal-Mart War Heads to Washington

The battle over Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has long been waged in towns and cities, with opponents using zoning ordinances and referendums to block the big-box retailer from their neighborhoods. Now the two sides are taking their fight straight to Washington. Working out of offices that resemble political war rooms, two groups, Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch, are running campaigns to pressure the world’s largest retailer to be a better employer and corporate citizen. Run by veterans of political campaigns, these groups are aligning themselves with lawmakers in hopes of passing laws that are aimed at Wal-Mart. They also hope to make the company a political campaign issue for 2006. Their efforts extend beyond the Beltway. Wake Up Wal-Mart, supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and Wal-Mart Watch, which draws support from a wider network, have also recruited thousands of volunteers around the country to help their cause. Wal-Mart, meanwhile, has increased its own Washington presence. Since spring, its representatives have visited and written to lawmakers, particularly Democrats who have been most critical of the company. It also plans to bolster its lobbying team, which has already more than doubled to 10 in the past year.

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