Even Wal-Mart, the largest and arguably most powerful corporation in the country, is no match for the triangulation, pandering and obfuscation of Hillary Clinton. With Wal-Mart rating as public enemy number one among many liberals, progressives and just regular voters, Clinton is finding her past ties to Wal-Mart too hot to handle so, presto, over the side the Beast of Bentonville must go.
For those not in the know, Clinton served on Wal-Mart’s board for six years prior to her husband’s run for the presidency. She recently received $5,000 from Wal-Mart. I’ve raised the Wal-Mart relationship repeatedly in my current race against Clinton and it causes deep unease among voters. I believe it speaks to the incumbent’s close ties to abusive corporate power: her large corporate financial contributions, her support for so-called “free trade” (which is simply trade to benefit corporations) and her unwillingness to confront corporate power that denies every American, among other things, universal health insurance.
So, I had to chuckle when I read that Clinton, having never said a bad word about the company in the past, recently said that Wal-Mart should pay more for its workers’ health benefits. And, to boot, she returned the $5,000 she had received from the company. But, when asked what she did about the company’s benefits for workers when she served on the board, she replied, “Well, you know, I, that was a long time ago ... have to remember…”
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t promote an image of being an intelligent woman who has a pile of facts at her fingertips but, at the same time, you suffer a sudden bout of amnesia when asked to answer for your record. And it would be an inconvenient record to defend.
In 1992, Wal-Mart was simply smaller than it is today. But it was still huge, with $43.9 billion in net sales, 1,714 stores and 371,000 employees. Even in 1992, Wal-Mart was already the world’s largest retailer.
And the board Hillary Clinton sat on was rabidly anti-union, was exploiting sweatshop labor around the world, discriminating against women workers, forcing workers to labor off the clock and destroying communities that did not want them. This should not be a shock: Clinton was a partner in the Rose law firm, one of the most active anti-union law firms in the country.
So, the question still remains: what did Hillary Clinton do—or, not do—when she served on the board of Wal-Mart? Maybe, if her memory was refreshed, she could tell us how she protested the company’s relentless union-busting, expressed feminist outrage at the widespread discrimination against women and was horrified that the mushrooming wealth of the Wal-Mart family was made possible on the backs of slave labor around the world.
Her behavior then, when the spotlight was not on and her record did not matter to voters, should tell voters a lot more about her principles and values than the carefully orchestrated image New Yorkers try to figure out now. The voters deserve to know.
For the past 25 years, Jonathan Tasini has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy. From 1990 to April 2003, he served as president of the National Writers Union (United Auto Workers Local 1981) During his tenure, the union tripled in size and became one of the most influential forces in the country for protecting the rights of freelance writers.
© 2006 The Huffington Post