Wal-Mart launches drive to rebut criticism on worker pay, community impact of stores


Thursday, January 13th 2005, 9:55 am
By: News On 6


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Wal-Mart placed more than 100 newspaper ads Thursday defending its impact on workers and communities, and chief executive Lee Scott said he wants the company to set the record straight.

If Wal-Mart's position as the world's largest retailer makes it a focus of attack, Scott said, he wants the criticism to at least be accurate. It's unfair to characterize Wal-Mart as a company that does not pay well and relies heavily on part-time workers, he argued.

``We want to get those myths off the table, set the record straight,'' Scott said in a phone interview from New York City, where he was giving interviews Thursday.

The full-page advertisements, in the form of a letter from Scott, say the company's average pay is nearly twice the minimum wage, 74 percent of its hourly workers are full time, and it offers health and life insurance, company stock and a 401(k) retirement plan. Wal-Mart has more than 1 million domestic employees.

``We're taking this time to say, 'Hold on a minute. We have good jobs,''' Scott said.

Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been the target of lawsuits accusing the company of bias against women and not paying employees for all the hours they worked. Wal-Mart has vigorously fought the court actions.

The company also is regularly criticized by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which continues to try to organize Wal-Mart workers. Union spokesman Greg Denier did not immediately return a call Thursday seeking comment.

Scott said no one source of criticism prompted the new offensive. ``I liken it to being nibbled to death by guppies,'' Scott said.

But Scott said he does not dismiss concerns that people express when Wal-Mart wants to open a new store. ``I think there's lots of questions when Wal-Mart comes to a town that need to be answered. Not all of those questions are frivolous,'' he said.

The company also launched a Web site _ www.walmartfacts.com _ where it discusses its larger role in communities and as an employer.