Walmart Watch

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Walmart Watch, formed in the spring of 2005, is a joint project of the Center for Community and Corporate Ethics, a non-profit organization studying the impact of large corporations on society and its advocacy arm, Five Stones.[1] The Wal-Mart Watch group is based in Washington [2] with the goal to challenge Wal-Mart to become a better employer, neighbor, and corporate citizen in order to improve the wages, health benefits, and treatment of workers. [3] One of Wal-Mart Watch’s initial attacks against Wal-Mart was setting up an automated phone system that called 10,000 people in Arkansas in efforts to find individuals who would share secrets about the practices of Wal-Mart on their workers. As a result of this automated phone system attack, Wal-Mart Watch created a 24-page report revealing the company’s wages and benefits. Wal-Mart Watch’s goal was to get the inside scoop on Wal-Mart’s practices, in hope that they would be less than respectable, to show the public the “ugly truth” behind Wal-Mart. [4] Wal-Mart Watch launched a “Higher Expectations” campaign called “Higher Expectations Week” as an attempt to bring the business practices of Wal-Mart to the public eye. “Higher Expectations Week” was supported by many labor unions and liberal groups that partnered and participated with Wal-Mart Watch during the week of the campaign. [5] It has recently merged with Wake Up Wal-Mart to form Making Change at Walmart.[citation needed]

Backers and Funding[edit]

Walmart Watch was originally funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU),[6] and is today part of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. According to the Wall Street Journal, Walmart Watch is mainly funded by Five Stones, a 501(c)(3) organization that received $2,775,000 in 2005 from the SEIU.[7] The SEIU reportedly gave Five Stones $1 million in 2004 to start Walmart Watch.[8]

Reasons For Opposition[edit]

Wal-Mart Watch obtained a copy of a Wal-Mart draft memo in which suggested ways to cut employee benefit costs. Wal-Mart Watch asserts that the memo portrayed worker’s wages and benefits as being too low. The memo proposed ways to reduce spending on workers’ benefits without damaging the reputation of Wal-Mart. Specifically, one proposal suggested that Wal-Mart begin hiring more part-time workers because they would not be bound to offer the same benefits as they do for full-time workers. This would also help Wal-Mart cut costs buy being able to pay worker’s a part-time wage rather than a full-time wage. Therefore, Wal-Mart Watch took action by exposing this internal draft memo to the public to illustrate the worsening conditions of Wal-Mart employees.[9]


During the period of November 13–19, 2005, Walmart Watch sponsored "Higher Expectations Week" to highlight its campaign to reform Walmart. It reported over 300 supporting organizations.[citation needed] “Higher Expectations Week” was a nationwide campaign that held thousands of events during the week. Some events consisted of town hall meetings with elected officials present as well as religious leaders giving sermons. Wal-Mart Watch wanted to address the public through events that respectable public figures supported. The biggest event of the week was the screenings of the film “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”, produced by Robert Greenwald. There were 3,500 planned screenings of the film nationwide. [10] Labor Unions participated in “Higher Expectations Week” such as Service Employees International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and United Food and Commercial Workers. Liberal groups also participated in the weeklong campaign such as Sierra Club, United for a Fair Economy, and Pride at Work. In addition local affiliates of AFL-CIO, National Organization for Women, ACLU, and NARAL Pro-Choice America were also supporters of the events. [11]

Effects On Wal-Mart[edit]

Wal-Mart Watch’s actions, geared toward influencing Wal-Mart to alter its business practices, negatively effected Wal-Mart financially as well as their reputation among consumers. By November 2006, Wal-Mart’s stock suffered from the negative publicity and was down 30 percent since 2000. In addition, Wal-Mart’s sales growth was 3.1 percent lower than their competitor, Target, at 1.5 percent. [12] The financial losses continued into 2007 when Wal-Mart shares were priced at $43.16, an 81-cent drop. [13]

Two separate polls reported a decrease in Wal-Mart’s popularity among consumer after the negative publicity brought about by Wal-Mart Watch. McKinsey & Co. reported that 2-8 percent of consumers no longer wanted to shop at Wal-Mart. [14] Westhill Consulting took a poll over a two-year period of Wal-Mart’s overall favorability. The results showed that Wal-Mart’s favorability decreased by 8 percent along with consumers developing a negative opinion of Wal-Mart. The negative publicity resulted in 11 percent of consumers to change their shopping habits and 9 percent to purchases less. [15]

The release of and mass viewings of the documentary, Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, during “Higher Expectations Week” brought the issue of gender discrimination, directed toward female employees, to the forefront in 2007 leading to Wal-Mart facing a class action lawsuit. In February 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided, in a 2-to-1 ruling, that the lawsuit would proceed as a class action on account of the 1.5 million female employees, who claimed they were denied higher pay and company promotions. [16] The lawsuit eventually developed into a United States Supreme Court case, Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

Wal-Mart's Response[edit]

In an attempt to reconcile its image, Wal-Mart banded with Edelman Public Relations to create an opposing advocacy group, Working Families for Wal-Mart, on December 20, 2005. The goal of this advocacy group was to show Wal-Mart in a positive light to society by highlighting Wal-Mart’s charitable contributions and corporate social responsibility initiatives. [17] However, the group was criticized for not being an actual grassroots organization due to its funding by Wal-Mart. [18]

The Merge[edit]

Wal-Mart Watch decided to merge with a fellow union-backed anti Wal-Mart group, Wake Up Wal-Mart, in 2009 and the two groups will be consolidated under the name Both of these groups have the same goals of pressuring Wal-Mart to raise worker wages and improve worker benefits. Meghan Scott, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, stated that it would be optimal to merge the two groups in order to improve their efforts against the world’s largest retailer. [19]

Wal-Mart Watch Members[edit]

  • Andrew Grossman

Grossman is the founder of Wal-Mart Watch and served as the executive director with the goal to challenge the world’s largest business to be a better corporate citizen. Since Grossman and Wal-Mart Watch challenged Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart has launched an environment initiative and endorsed the Affordable Care Act. [20] In 2007, Grossman left his full-time position with Wal-Mart Watch and took on a consulting role. David Nassar, former chief of staff, was chosen to fill the position of executive director. [21]

  • David Nassar

Nassar initially served as chief of staff for Wal-Mart Watch then in 2007, Andy Stern, board chairman, chose Nassar as the best candidate to fill the position of executive director. Prior to being appointed as executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, Nassar worked as a field organizer and manager on domestic and international campaigns, managed pro-democracy programs for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Yemen, Lebanon, and Jordan, and managed SEIU’s New Hampshire for Health Care campaign. [22]

  • Andy Stern

Stern serves as the chairman of the Wal-Mart Watch Board in addition to being the president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union that funds Wal-Mart Watch. [23]

  • Tracy Sefl

Tracy Sefl serves as the communication director for Wal-Mart Watch. She acts as the spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Watch by responding to newspapers and reporters in regards to the actions of Wal-Mart. [24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "About Walmart Watch". Walmart Watch's website. Retrieved 28 February 2006. 
  2. ^ Barbaro, Michael. "A New Weapon for Wal-Mart: A War Room." New York Times 1 Nov. 2005. Web. <>
  3. ^ Wal-Mart Critics Join Forces During “Higher Expectations Week”." 16 Nov. 2005. Web. <“higher-expectations-week”>
  4. ^ Barbaro, Michael. "A New Weapon for Wal-Mart: A War Room." New York Times 1 Nov. 2005. Web. <>
  5. ^ Hall, Randy. "Wal-Mart Must Meet 'Higher Expectations,' Campaign Says." CSN news 7 July 2008. Web. <>
  6. ^ Washington Post, January 14, 2006: "Unions Hope Wal-Mart Bill Has Momentum" Retrieved 2011-03-25
  7. ^ Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2006: "The Wal-Mart Posse" Retrtrieved 2011-03-25
  8. ^ Businessweek February 7, 2005: "Declaring War On Wal-Mart" Retrieved 2011-03-25
  9. ^ Greenhouse, Steven, and Michael Barbaro. "Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs." NY Times 26 Oct. 2005. Web. <>
  10. ^ "Wal-Mart Critics Join Forces During “Higher Expectations Week”." 16 Nov. 2005. Web. <“higher-expectations-week”>
  11. ^ Hall, Randy. "Wal-Mart Must Meet 'Higher Expectations,' Campaign Says." CSN news 7 July 2008. Web. <>
  12. ^ Gimbel, B. (2006, November 28). Attack of the wal-martyrs. Fortune Magazine , pp. 1-6.
  13. ^ Fisk, M., & Pearson, S. (2007, September 25). Wal-mart shortchanged Minnesota workers, lawyer says. Bloomberg News , pp. 1-2.
  14. ^ Gimbel, B. (2006, November 28). Attack of the wal-martyrs. Fortune Magazine , pp. 1-6.
  15. ^ Wal-Mart Watch. (2007, April). Recent Reports. Retrieved October 25, 2008, from Wal-Mart Watch:
  16. ^ Greenhouse, Steven. "Court Approves Class-Action Suit Against Wal-Mart." The New York Times, February 7, 2007.
  17. ^ Goldberg, J. (2007, April 2). Selling wal-mart. The New Yorker , pp. 1-6
  18. ^ Kabel, M. (2006, July 18). Wal-mart, critics slam each other on web. Washington Post.
  19. ^ Bartels, Chuck. "Anti-Wal-Mart Groups Urging Better Pay, Benefits Merge." USA Today. Web. <>
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Turner, Lance. "Grossman Leaves Wal-Mart Watch." Web. <>
  22. ^ Turner, Lance. "Grossman Leaves Wal-Mart Watch." Web. <>
  23. ^ Featherstone, Liza. "Labor Head Andy Stern Has Some Unusual Corporate Bedfellows." The Nation. Web. <>
  24. ^ "A Debate: Does Wal-Mart Work or Is It a High Cost for Low Price?" 18 Nov. 2005. Web. <>

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