The Political Costs of Wal-Mart

The Political Costs of Wal-Mart

Cozying up to Wal-Mart may cost a New Jersey mayor his job.

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Playing towel boy to Wal-Mart may cost Edison, New Jersey, Mayor George Spadoro his job. In a local battle over a proposed Wal-Mart store, the Democratic mayor has alienated many residents by taking the company’s side. (The neighbors aren’t pleased, either; an adjacent town is suing Edison over the project, fearing it will greatly worsen traffic problems.) Edison’s labor leaders don’t usually get involved in local Democratic primary politics, but the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union are throwing their weight behind Spadoro’s opponent, Jun Choi. An education activist, Choi is the more progressive candidate, but his opposition to the Edison Wal-Mart–and support for more sustainable development–is giving his campaign a unique momentum. The primary is on June 7–if you live in the area, check out www.junchoi.com/volunteer.htm. Whoever wins the primary in this Democratic town is likely to be mayor.

If Spadoro does lose, his fate should serve as a cautionary tale to other politicians who are too spineless, misguided or downright whorish to stand up to Wal-Mart. Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. falls in the latter category. Ehrlich, as Katrina vanden Heuvel reported a few weeks ago, is vetoing a bill that would force Wal-Mart either to increase spending on employee health insurance or reimburse the state’s taxpayers for the public-assistance expenses incurred by the company’s workers. Luckily the bill has enough votes in the legislature to override Ehrlich’s veto, but the material context for the governor’s pathetic antics hasn’t escaped scrutiny. As reported in the Washington Post, Ehrlich recently received a $4,000 contribution from Wal-Mart and was the beneficiary of a $1,000-per-head fundraiser hosted by the company. Wal-Mart Watch is urging people to sign a petition calling on him to send the money back to Wal-Mart.

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