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AFL-CIO Wal-Mart blocking port security efforts

Published: Wednesday April 5, 2006

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A new report delivered to members of Congress today by the AFL-CIO alleges that lobbyists for America's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, are blocking efforts to secure the nation's ports.

"Unchecked: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security," reveals that Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA,) a lobby group controlled by the big box giant, has poured $282,000 into current House Homeland Security Committee members since the September 11 attacks. 90% of that total went to the committee's Republican members, while and 4 of the committee's 14 Democrats accepted $28,500. During the 2004 election cycle, Wal-Mart gave $2.7 million in campaign contributions for national offices, making it the nation's third biggest corporate contributor.

The retailer has in turn used this influence to oppose the introduction of electronic cargo seals and "smart containers" for material entering U.S. ports, independent, regular inspections of supply-chain security practices, toughter Customs rules, and container-handling fees to pay for improved port security measures.

Yesterday, a RILA Vice President argued before Congress that improving these security measures would help terrorists: "If commerce is disrupted ... either through an attack or ill-conceived regulation of our international trading system, then the terrorists will have achieved one of their key goals."

The AFL-CIO represents hundreds of thousands of port, transportation and emergency workers. Wal-Mart, which saw profits of $21.2 billion last year, is notorious for blocking employee efforts to unionize.