Over the last several months, a confidential report has circulated within the headquarters of Wal-Mart Stores, proposing sweeping changes to its employee health care plans.
It looks like a typical corporate planning document, but it is not. The nine-page report, written by an Emory University professor, Kenneth Thorpe, was commissioned, paid for and given to Wal-Mart by its longtime foes, the Service Employees International Union, and a group the union finances, called Wal-Mart Watch. They are known for attacking the chain, not cooperating with it.
But after waging an aggressive public relations campaign against Wal-Mart for three years, the company's full-time, union-backed critics, who once vowed never to let up, are lowering their pitchforks.
Shrill condemnations and embarrassing leaked documents are giving way to acknowledgments of progress -- and, in the case of Wal-Mart Watch, free advice.