Walmart Labor Group Lobbies Retailer to Drop Support of GOP Convention

Threat of Protests at Stores, Trump Properties if Petition Unanswered

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A group of Walmart Stores employees and labor activists are asking the retailer not to support the Republican national convention, joining a chorus of organizations pressuring companies to distance themselves from the party and presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

The group Making Change at Walmart sent a letter to Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon on Thursday asking the country's largest private employer to speak out against Mr. Trump's "racist, misogynistic, anti-veteran and Islamophobic" remarks. If Walmart doesn't respond by next week, the organization is planning protests at its stores and Mr. Trump's properties. Making Change at Wal-Mart -- which has previously lobbied the chain for higher wages and better benefits -- also said it will petition the retailer's customers to sign on to the letter.

"We know that Walmart has long supported past Republican nominees and conventions, but this year is different," the group said in the letter, which also was signed by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute and the Black Institute. "Donald Trump is different. His values and offensive statements are beyond the pale. If you do choose to remain silent, we must ask: Are Mr. Trump's values the same as Wal-Mart's values?"

A growing number of prominent companies that supported the last convention in 2012 -- including Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Ford Motor -- have dropped or scaled back their sponsorship of next month's Republican convention in Cleveland. Most aren't commenting publicly on their reasons or saying whether Trump played a role. Many said they wouldn't support the Democratic convention, either.

Wal-Mart gave $15,000 to the Republican party's convention fund in November and the same amount to the Democratic party this month, said Greg Hitt, a Walmart spokesman. He said the company decided to give to both parties as a way to support the conventions and the political process. He declined to comment on criticism of Trump.

"At Walmart, we place the highest value on respect for every individual and associate and customer, and we have policies that support inclusion and diversity," Mr. Hitt said.

The convention contribution "reflects what we think is the appropriate level of engagement for us," he said.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to comment.

In 2012, Walmart gave $150,000 in cash to the Republican convention, and the Walmart Foundation gave $50,000 to the Democratic convention that year, though the Democratic Party had been trying to raise less of its money from corporations, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from public finance records. During the 2008 election cycle, Wal-Mart also gave $41,000 in electronics and furniture to the Republican convention and $10,000 in cash.

The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, a nonpartisan group that is raising funds to support the logistics of the event, has seen a "minimal effect" on contributions resulting from pressure on companies to pull their support, according to spokeswoman Emily Lauer. The committee has gathered commitments of cash and in-kind services of $57.5 million, 90% of its goal.

-- Bloomberg News

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