Doing Something About Wal-Mart

Look into the faces of America's children. There you will find America's future. That's why all of us -- teachers, mentors and parents -- work our hardest to teach, to inspire, to motivate, to instill values that we believe will make their lives better and our nation a better place. It's not easy. But it is the most valuable contribution we can make.

I know. As a kid, I was a hard case to crack, to reach. But my teachers, and my parents, persevered. They taught me a sense of social justice that won't quit. But there's a threat looming that, as parents, teachers, mentors, we can't ignore. We may be living in a time when the generation now in school will, for the first time in our country's history, be worse off than the previous generation.

While there are no doubt many reasons for this threat, there's one that we can do something about. It's the corrosive, drive-to-the-bottom approach some rogue corporations take toward the people they employ. Wal-Mart, the world's -- and this country's -- largest employer uses tactics that are shocking.

Wal-Mart puts kids around the world at risk. It 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, a slap on the wrist. Now it faces the largest class action discrimination suit in history--for how it treats its female employees.

My parents were both union members. Because of their unions, we had a decent standard of living. 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.

That's just wrong and I think we can change it. The first step toward changing Wal-Mart's anti-social behavior is to use the Internet to recruit teachers, parents, mentors and concerned citizens 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 someplace else this fall."

I urge you to sign this pledge, then become an essential player in this new movement to change America. It's a chance for all of us to use new technology -- Internet and email -- that can bring about social change, to make America's corporations accountable to America's communities and America's kids.

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