Weingarten to Walmart: Stop selling guns, or we’ll stop shopping there
Randi Weingarten | Paul Sancya/AP

WASHINGTON – Having had it up to here with gun-caused carnage, including at the nation’s schools, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has a blunt message for the nation’s biggest retailer, Walmart: Stop selling guns or we’ll stop shopping there.

That bombshell is just before the end of a letter Weingarten sent August 7 to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. He has yet to reply.

“Walmart has millions of customers and they all should feel safe while shopping,” Weingarten wrote after a gunman, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, entered the Walmart in El Paso, Texas and slaughtered 22 people, most of them Hispanic.

The gunman previously posted an anti-Mexican internet screed and used phrases associated with GOP President Donald Trump, but Weingarten didn’t mention Trump in her letter. Instead, she unveiled her warning to Walmart:

“If you choose to act, it could change our national conversation in an instant. And if Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reforms, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores.” Even without anti-gun laws, Weingarten urged Walmart “to be part of the solution.”

That solution should not only include a total gun ban in Walmart but the withdrawal of Walmart campaign contributions to the notorious gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, she said. Weingarten noted five of the top current congressional recipients of gun lobby money also got dollars from Walmart’s campaign committee, its owners and its executives.

OpenSecrets.org, run by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics – which tallies, annotates and explains campaign contributions, reports the top 20 gun money recipients are incumbent GOP senators, ranging from Mitt Romney of Utah ($13.64 million, including spending slamming his opponent) to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($1.27 million, again including money against his foe).

Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the nation’s largest union, the National Education Association, have been part of a national crusade for tougher gun controls – bans on semi-automatic weapons, universal background checks, “red flag” laws and more – ever since the Valentine’s Day 2018 of 14 students and three AFT member-teachers by a semi-automatic-wielding shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

That slaughter led to a nationwide Douglas-student-led movement for tighter gun controls and it’s also turned the national discussion of the issue around. The students followed up their massive protests and vows to “Vote them out!”: against pro-gun solons with huge increases in turnout in the 2018. Several notable gun-nut GOP lawmakers, notably in Texas, went down to defeat that fall.

Walmart has so far resisted calls to curb its current role in arms sales, though several years ago it stopped selling guns – or so it says – in its stores to anyone aged under 21. It also pulled several types of guns from half of its 5,274 U.S. stores, but it still sells both guns and ammo online.

Those sales, in turn, led to a brief walkout by 40 of its online workers, on principle, just after the El Paso massacre. Walmart responded by retaliating against the walkout’s organizer, briefly suspending his in-store e-mail account, which had reached 20,000 readers.

Weingarten’s warning to Walmart may not be empty. Her union has 1.6 million members and NEA has double that. And while total school supply spending at Walmart is unknown, the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reported that in 2018 – the last year they could do so – teachers alone itemized $200 million worth of spending on school supplies for their students and used that as a deduction on their tax returns.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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