Wal-Mart, a company once considered among the least press-friendly operations, has just gotten a lot savvier.
As its foes have started extensive online movements like "Wal-Mart Watch" and "Wake Up Wal-Mart," the retailer has started its own support group, "Working Families for Wal-Mart," to show its warm and fuzzy side.
The group reeled in a surprise heavy hitter as its chairman: Andrew Young, former Atlanta mayor, United Nations ambassador, and Martin Luther King Jr. comrade. Young argued in his coming-out editorial that Wal-Mart's low prices give poor people a great opportunity to buy the same merchandise once available only to the rich.
Whether MLK had the world's largest corporation in mind when he gave his life organizing the "Poor People's Campaign" is debatable. But who better to make the case than his pal Young? In the same way ex-Black Panther leader Bobby Seale is now most famous for his barbeque company, perhaps Young can make the quest for "Always Low Prices" the culmination of his social justice career.
By positioning itself as the doorway to the American Dream, Wal-Mart can insulate itself from some of the criticism raining down on it from labor unions and left-wing groups. The fact that the new group is only "grassroots" in the sense that the field at the Houston Astrodome was "grass" is largely irrelevant. A spokesman with solid liberal credentials plus a company that can sell DVD players for $30 equals good PR.
3. On the right track