Union accuses Wal-Mart of blocking port security measures

| 4/7/2006

The AFL-CIO has accused Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of using its lobbying power to oppose port security measures because they would not be profitable.

In a report issued on Wednesday, April 5, the AFL-CIO claimed that, through lobbying group Retail Industry Leaders Association, Wal-Mart opposed several port security measures including one that would make containers more secure and beef up cargo inspections.

The report, titled “Unchecked: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security,” accused Wal-Mart of pressuring Congress to reject requirements for smart containers and electronic seals on cargo coming into the U.S., as well as increased independent inspections of supply chain security measures.

Jonathan Gold, the lobby group’s vice president for global supply chain policy, told the Los Angeles Times that Wal-Mart had no more influence over his group than any of its other 400 members.

The union’s report cited data from the Federal Election Commission showing that Wal-Mart made $2.7 million in campaign contributions in 2003-2004, making it the third-largest corporate contributor.

The labor union charges that those funds are being used to block critical port security measures.

The report also claims the U.S. has spent more than $18 billion on airport security since September 11, 2001, while it has only spent $630 million on port security.

Bill Wertz, Wal-Mart’s director of international corporate affairs, told Reuters that Wal-Mart is only a part of the RILA lobbying group, and that positions taken by that group should not be represented as positions taken by Wal-Mart.

He also said that Wal-Mart has spent millions of dollars improving port security.

“The notion that we are opposed to improved security is preposterous,” he told Reuters.