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Interfaith Coalition Calls for Wal-Mart Reform

A coalition of interfaith investors called on Wal-Mart to take up better business practices and adopt more compassionate employment policies, or face protest from top shareholders.

Interfaith Coalition Calls for Wal-Mart Reform

WASHINGTON – A coalition of interfaith investors on Thursday called on Wal-Mart to take up better business practices and adopt more compassionate employment policies, or face protest from members who hold over two million shares of the company’s stock.

“As one of the largest companies on the Fortune 500 list Wal-Mart has tremendous potential to be influential,” said Vidette Bullock Mixon, a Director of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits. “Our vision for Wal-Mart is that high standards will be established, so that the dignity of the millions of workers who depend on Wal-Mart is protected.”

Wal-Mart has come under fire from religious groups before. Last month, dozens of conservative Christian groups criticized the pharmaceutical giant for authorizing the sale of the “Plan B” emergency contraceptive pill. Also last month, the American Family Association accused the discount retailer of abandoning its “family-friendly” reputation by selling DVDs of Brokeback Mountain – a controversial film about a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy and their longtime, secretive love affair.

The members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, who own over two million shares of Wal-Mart, however, is not protesting the morality of carrying Plan B or Brokeback Mountain. Instead, the coalition is focusing on social morality and the company’s treatment of its 1.3 million workers.

“Wal-Mart has been the target of persistent reform campaigns,” said Sr. Patricia Wolf, R.S.M., Executive Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. “Instead of focusing on damage-control public relations, religious shareholders are working to channel the company’s energy and efforts into playing a more responsible role in the global community.”

According to an Apr. 6 press release, the ICCR filed four shareholders resolutions for consideration at Wal-Mart’s annual meeting this June. The four resolutions touch on raising employee wages, providing sustainability reporting, giving equal employment opportunities, and assuring the safety of its products.

“We are holding our Wal-Mart shares despite pressures of divestment, choosing to remain invested in the company and the reform process,” explained Margaret Weber, Co-chair of ICCR's Access to Health Working Group. “Now, Wal-Mart has to show leadership and make substantive changes in health care policy and other improvements in the lives of its workers.”

ICCR members include the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Christian Church Foundation, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The 35-year-old coalition is made up of 275 faith-based institutional investors that hold a combined portfolio worth an estimated $110 billion.

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