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DNCC returns Walmart gift cards after union pressure

Union complained that bribery allegations against retailer tainted donation

By Jim Morrill
jmorrill@charlotteobserver.com

The Democratic National Convention Committee is returning $50,000 in Walmart gift cards after a labor union said the giant retailer “flies in the face of the values we stand for as Democrats.”

A convention official confirmed the return of the cards, which the company donated last month.

“I commend the DNCC for doing the right thing,” Joe Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said in a statement Monday.

“The allegations of bribery and corruption against Walmart are serious and there is no way to know whether these contributions are tainted … Walmart has a long track record of mistreating their workers.”

Last month the New York Times detailed allegations that the company bribed officials in Mexico to increase its business there.

The DNCC decision followed reports that some unions plan to withhold financial support from the convention, in part because North Carolina, a right-to-work state, is the least-unionized state in the nation. Organized labor is one of the party’s core constituencies.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported that unions’ reluctance to support the convention comes as organizers struggle to raise nearly $37 million for the convention.

In 2008, unions contributed $8.6 million of the $60 million Democrats raised for their convention in Denver. Of that, the United Food and Commercial Workers gave $500,000.

A spokesman for the union wouldn’t comment Monday on whether the decision to turn down Walmart gift cards will persuade the union to give again this year. “I would just say we’re very happy,” said spokesman Tim Schlittner. “The party should not be aligning itself with Walmart.”

Convention officials had described the gift cards as an “in-kind” contribution that did not violate their self-imposed ban on corporate donations.

Walmart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said the company will continue to “have a presence” at the convention.

“We plan to donate the gift cards to a local food bank in Charlotte, as part of our $2 billion anti-hunger effort,” she said. “Walmart has a long history of supporting elected officials and political parties on both sides of the aisle and will continue to have a presence at both Democratic and Republican conventions.”

Morrill: 704-358-5059
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