Letter to Wal-Mart from Religious Leaders

Published December 10, 2005

The following letter, addressed to the CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. was coordinated by Wakeupwalmart and several dozen religious leaders around the country (list of signatories follows the letter).

Dear Mr. Scott,

The holiday season is a time to honor and remember the virtues of hope, love, joy, sharing, sacrifice, and faith. For people of all faiths, the celebration of the holiday season is a time to remember and embrace the best of our values. It is a time to reflect upon our lives, the impact we have on others, and the responsibility we all have to improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.

The prophet Moses in Deuteronomy 25:13-15 teaches “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy … lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee.” During this holy season, we must ask ourselves – at what moral price do we accept the sins of exploitation and greed? Sins, it is sad to say, which are exemplified by one of America’s largest and richest corporations, Wal-Mart.

Every day, Wal-Mart’s so-called low prices come at a high cost to the moral virtues and greatness of your workers, our families, and our nation. Everyday, America pays too high a cost for Wal-Mart’s immoral business practices.

As all faiths teach us, the current exploitation of those who work to provide us with goods and services, whether at Wal-Mart or its suppliers, can never be morally justified. Under all conditions, it is simply immoral and wrong. It goes against the teachings of our spiritual leaders and our commitment to justice, fairness, and community.

If there is one shared hope all faiths have in common, it is the central belief that we must work together to improve the lives of others. This central tenet, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ is the bedrock of our values, our faith, our families and our communities.

Unfortunately, Wal-Mart needlessly ignores the Golden Rule putting our children and their workers needlessly at-risk.

Despite $10 billion in profit last year, more than 600,000 Wal-Mart workers and their families struggle with no company-provided health care. Even more troubling, nearly 1 out of every 2 children of Wal-Mart workers lives without health care or relies on a public program. Wal-Mart has repeatedly broken child labor laws. Wal-Mart is being sued by 1.5 million female employees for discrimination. And, Wal-Mart continues to pay poverty-level wages, forcing many of its workers to make the impossible choice between rent and health care.

It is hard to imagine why Wal-Mart would consciously choose to make 1.3 million workers suffer in the name of “low prices,” a suffering we can no longer let stand.

For those of us who are Christians, we celebrate the life, the birth and the teachings of Jesus, and we call on Wal-Mart to change. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we ask ourselves: Would Jesus support the exploitation of so many for the profit of so few? Would Jesus tolerate systematic discrimination against women? Would Jesus stand by idly while thousands of children go without health care? Would Jesus accept violations of child labor laws?

The answer is simple. Jesus would not embrace Wal-Mart’s values of greed and profits at any cost, particularly when children suffer as a result of those misguided values.

Those of us who are Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist also have scriptures that remind us that God is just and God’s servants must practice justice in all of our words and deeds. As we prepare to celebrate our own holiday traditions, we also ask ourselves, is it right to shop at Wal-Mart? Would our God want us to support Wal-Mart’s values and actions with our dollars?

We know Wal-Mart has the power to improve the lives of millions of workers, their families, and our communities. Wal-Mart can become, if you and the Walton Family so choose, a leading example of moral greatness in corporate America. You have the power to change and set an example that would truly honor and reflect the call of all faith traditions to righteousness and justice.

So beginning today, in the shared spirit of the holiday season, we call on Wal-Mart to change, to become better, and to embrace the best of American values. It is within your power to become a truly responsible, ethical, and righteous company.

In the end, there is no better present Wal-Mart could give to its workers, their families, and America than to change for the better this holiday season.


Reverend Jesse Jackson, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Reverend John H. Thomas, President, United Church of Christ
Reverend James Lawson, Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA
Kim Bobo, Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice
Bishop Gabino Zavala, Regional Bishop in the San Gabriel Pastoral Region (Archdiocese of Los Angeles, CA)
Reverend Doctor William Jarvis Johnson, Calvary CME Church of Pasadena, CA
Reverend Alexia Salvatierra, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE)
Father Michael Pfleger, Faith Community of St. Sabina Parish, Chicago, Illinois.
Reverend Bennie E. Whiten, Jr., United Church of Christ
Retired Bishop Jesse DeWitt of the United Methodist Church
Reverend Mark Wendorf, McCormick Theological Seminary and Board Member of Interfaith Worker Justice
Professor William P. Quigley, Loyola University New Orleans School of Law and Board member of Interfaith Worker Justice
Dr. Edie Rasell of the Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ.
Reverend Ron Stief, Director of Washington, D.C. office, United Church of Christ
Pastor Sylvia Tucker, Union Baptist Church of Hopewell, VA
Mr. Ralph Ramirez, President of Richmond, VA Southern Council Leadership Conference Chapter
Reverend Rebekah Jordan, Mid-South Interfaith Network for Economic Justice
Reverend Sinclair Oubre, J.C.L. of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church of Port Arthur, TX
Reverend Doctor John J. O’Brien, C.P.
Reverend Bridgeforth, Shiloh Baptist Church, VA
Reverend King, Southern Council Leadership Conference of Danville, VA
Reverend Rufus Fuller II Pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, VA
Reverend William Avon Keen of Traynham Grove Church,VA
Reverend John Snider, Saint Stephen’s Lutheran Church, West St. Paul, MN
Reverend Bill Bulson, Holy Apostles, MN
Reverend Timothy M Johnson, Cherokee Park United Church of St. Paul, MN
Reverend Johnathan C. Tetherly, Chaplain of Hampden County House of Corrections, MA
Father Thomas Mueller, S.S. Cyril & Methodist Orthodox Church, WI
Father Jerry Schroeder, St. Benedict the Moor Parish of Milwaukee, WI
Reverend Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, Good Sheperd Lutheran Church in Waukesha, WI
Reverend Kelly Fowler, First United Methodist Church of Waukesha, WI
Reverend Doctor Ronald Faust, Kansas City Interfaith Worker Justice, MO
Reverend Tom Blakley, Barry Christian Church, MO
Reverend Spencer Barrett, Co-chair, Kansas City Interfaith Worker Justice, MO
Pastor Robin Hood Senior Pastor, Redeemed Outreach Ministries, IL
Reverend Fr. Alfredo Gundrum , Pastor of St. Kevin, Chicago, IL
Reverend Jose Landaverde, Amor de Dios, United Methodist Church, IL
Reverend William F. Marx, Pax Christi of Western New York
Reverend Dan Schifeling, Church of Nativity, United Church of Christ
Sister Jean Sliwikski, Western New York Workers’ Rights Board
Reverend Suzelle Lynch, Unitarian Universalist Church, Brookfield WI
Reverend Doctor. Roland Womack, Board Member, African-American Ministers Leadership Council, and Pastor, Progressive Baptist Church, Milwaukee, WI
Pastor Susan Burchfield, Immanuel Lutheran Church of Seattle, WA
Reverend Richard Vogel, Executive Pastor, St. James United Methodist Church, Kansas City, MO
Reverend Emanuel Cleaver II, St. James United Methodist Church of Kansas City, MO
Reverend Norman D. Copeland, AME Church, Los Angeles, CA
Reverend Calvin S. Morris, Ph.D. Executive Director Community Renewal Society of Chicago, IL
Reverend Jennifer Kottler, Protestants for the Common Good of Chicago, IL
Reverend Jon M. Luopa, Univeralist Unitarian Church of Seattle WA
Sisters of St Joseph of Springfield, MA Justice and Peace Committee
Reverend William F. Brisotti, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, NY
Reverend Catherine Schulyer, Protestant Campus Ministry of Stony Brook, NY
Reverend Richard E. Edwards, Stony Brook Community Church, NY
Reverend Thomas W. Goodhue, Executive Director, The Long Island Council of Churches, NY
Reverend Paul Ratzlaff, The Unitarian Universalist of Fellowship of Huntington, NY
Sister Rosemary Everett, SNJM, Sisters of the Holy Names, CA
Father Bill Leininger, Human Concerns Commission, Diocese of San Jose, CA
Monsieur Gene Boyle, St. Thomas Aquinas of Palo Alto, CA
Reverend John Freesemann, Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church of San Jose, CA
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash of Los Gatos, CA
Reverend Carol Been, The Interfaith Council of San Jose, CA
Ms. Mary Quinn Kambic, Catholic Labor Committee of Baltimore, MD
Ms. Evely Laser Shlensky, Board member, Executive Committee, Interfaith Worker Justice
Mr. Monroe B. Sullivan, National Board Member, Interfaith Worker Justice
Ms. Karen Herrling, Attorney, Catholic Legal Immigration Network
Mr. Stephen Hand, Editor, Traditional Catholic Reflections