February 27, 2006

Civil rights icon tapped to defend Wal-Mart

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Civil rights leader and former
Atlanta mayor Andrew Young will become the public face of a
Wal-Mart-backed group whose aim is to combat criticism of the
world's largest retailer, the group said on Monday.

Young, who was an aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
during the civil rights protests of the 1960s and served as
ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter,
will serve as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart's
national steering committee, the group said in a statement.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was among the financial backers of
Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of people "who
understand and appreciate Wal-Mart's positive impact on the
working families of America," according to its Web site.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer has stepped up
efforts to counter criticism from unions and other groups who
say the company pays poverty-level wages, discriminates against
women and drives competitors out of business.

Image has become increasingly important for Wal-Mart as it
reaches out to wealthier shoppers and grapples with growing
opposition to its expansion, particularly into urban areas.

"The critics have it wrong," Young said in a statement.
"For those who care about the poor it is time to step up, speak
out and join this national discussion."

Wake Up Wal-Mart, a union-backed group critical of
Wal-Mart, called on Young to use his position to push for
changes at the retailer.

"Ambassador Young is now in a unique position to reach out
to Wal-Mart and CEO Lee Scott and urge them to change," Paul
Blank, campaign director for Wake Up Wal-Mart, said in a