Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a longtime civil-rights activist who helped draft the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is facing criticism that he usually has not had to endure. Union activists are calling him a “corporate shill.” One African-American commentator was even more vicious: “How many more times will other Andys and Amoses of our black business-class leadership betray us?”
A shill? Young has spent his career supporting union causes. And how nasty to compare a civil-rights leader to the characters portrayed on “Amos ’N Andy,” the 1950s television series that was taken off the air for its Uncle-Tomish portrayal of black people.
What is Young’s crime? He has become chairman of a Wal-Mart-funded group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, which rebuts the attacks on the company that come from unions and liberal activists.
Union activists say the company pays relatively low wages and offers a relatively modest amount of benefits. Somehow, Wal-Mart, which offers decent jobs and low-cost products that benefit many poorer people, is depicted as a foe of the poor.
“I like to fight poverty,” Young told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “For almost 10 years, I’ve been using in my sermon message that fighting poverty is good business, and I’ve used Wal-Mart as an example.” He said “a family can save $2,300 a year by shopping at Wal-Mart.” And he told another newspaper the issue of health insurance is “disingenuous,” given that it is mostly a problem for the elderly and poor as opposed to working people.
The unions want to stop the construction of new Wal-Marts and force unionization on the company, not out of some concern for the poor, but because of their desire to reduce nonunion competition or create new members for themselves. If Wal-Mart were forced to offer much higher wages and benefits, then it would not be able to hire as many people or offer its products at such low prices. People without much experience can get decent jobs at Wal-Mart, whereas union jobs are harder to come by.
The market needs jobs at all levels. To target lower-level jobs because they don’t pay as much as higher level jobs is absurd. Any company should be free to offer jobs at any wage. No one puts a gun to anyone’s head to accept a job there.
The anti-Wal-Mart campaign is harming the poor, not helping them. Don’t take our word for it. Listen to Andrew Young.