Former Civil Rights Activist to Head Pro-Wal-Mart Group

Former civil rights activist Andrew Young was named as head of a committee that defends Wal-Mart against its critics, USAToday reported Feb. 27.

Working Families for Wal-Mart, a 16-member committee of community leaders from across the country, announced Young as their chairman.

According to thestar.com, the organization was formed in December to defend the multi-billion dollar corporation against mounting charges from its critics.

Wal-Mart has been charged with its poverty-level domestic pay, use of child labor here and abroad, environmental destruction and union busting, villagevoice.com reported August 2005.

"Wal-Mart’s got…no benefits!" Matteo Manzella, a meat cutter with Local 342 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union told the Village Voice. "They literally tell their employees to go on welfare for benefits!"

Even with the negative press, Young still got involved because he said that criticism from the unions were one-sided.

"The union position is talking about the redistribution of wealth, but they’re not talking about generating new wealth. Wal-Mart is generating new wealth when it comes in," Young told the Sacramento Bee. "The phases outweigh the minuses. They do give benefits, they do have health insurance."

Cnsnews.com reported March 1 that Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com (an opponent of the retail giant), called on Young to use his new position to create fair working environment for Wal-Mart employees. But Young’s track record show instance where he has not always favored the working class.

During his eight-year tenure (1982-1990) as mayor of Atlanta, he was criticized by "the working people who benefited less from his talents," politicalreviewnet.com reported September 2005. Young, a former UN ambassador, was also criticized for "his reluctance to endorse legislation condemning China for human rights violations" in the Nike shoe plants there.

Despite past criticism, some students are optimistic about the Howard University alumnus heading a business backed by Wal-Mart.

Ashley Crenshaw, a sophomore majoring in communication at SUNY University in Albany, NY, believes that Young would use his new position to help improve working conditions for people of color.

“Anybody who is willing to-help the society as a whole is a great guy in my book,” Crenshaw said.

Young told Cyber News System he would help include those who have been excluded from the company’s economic opportunities.

“I guess I’m a kind of a fan of Wal-Mart because the challenge of the 21st century is to make democracy and capitalism relevant to poor people,” he was quoted by cnsnews.com. “I believe that if more companies followed Wal-Mart’s lead in providing opportunity and savings to those who need it more, more Americans battling poverty would realize the American dream.”