Friday, May 12, 2006

Wal-Mart Suppliers Encouraged to Join WFFW

Wal-Mart started it's own 'grassroots' advocacy group called "Working Families for Wal-Mart" a few months ago. Now it appears it is 'encouraging' it's suppliers to join the organization.

As a result of the close relationship between the company and the Working Families for Wal-Mart, some current and former suppliers say, the advocacy group's membership drive amounts to Wal-Mart's leaning on its suppliers to help burnish the company's image — a request many said would be hard to turn down, given the company's importance to their business.

...Wal-Mart has helped with the recruitment of its suppliers by Working Families for Wal-Mart, even distributing a letter to thousands of suppliers, ostensibly from the group, that began "Wal-Mart is under attack and Wal-Mart and Sam's Club suppliers have the power to do something about it and help protect their businesses."

Another executive, who sits on the board of several Wal-Mart suppliers, said that given Wal-Mart's size, a company faces "implicit pressure to join" the group if asked. The executive spoke only after receiving anonymity, saying he was not authorized to speak publicly about Wal-Mart.

Of course Wal-Mart denies any ties between a supplier joining Working Families for Wal-Mart and it's ability to do business with Wal-Mart. One member of the national steering committee for WFFW claims not to know if Wal-Mart provided any start-up funds for the organization.

Also involved with WFFW is Terry Nelson, a middleman in the money-laundering indictment involving former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the supervisor of convicted felon James Tobin of the 2002 New Hampshire phone jamming scandal and senior advisor to John McCain.

Wal-Mart's answer to a poor public image is to hire, Edelman, the largest public relations firm in the world.

Edelman has reportedly set up a 'war room' to deal with Wal-Mart's poor public relations. Edelman is very upfront about enlisting pro-Wal-Mart bloggers as means of improving Wal-Mart's image.

Let me get the disclosure out of the way. Edelman is the PR firm working with bloggers as part of a Wal-Mart corporate image campaign. Edelman is transparent about its relationship with Wal-Mart in our communications to bloggers. It's clear who we represent.

I wonder if Terry Nelson or Richard Edelman shop at Wal-Mart?

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