A union-backed campaign pushing for labor reform in the world’s largest retailer is launching cross-country bus tour themed “Change Wal-Mart, Change America.”

The 35-day tour, visiting 35 cities in 19 states, starts today in New York City and ends Labor Day, Sept. 4, in Seattle. Daily stops will include rallies at state fairs, sporting events, public squares and selected Wal-Mart stores. Several Democratic politicians, including former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, are scheduled to take part.

“From the East Coast, to America’s heartland to the West Coast, we are asking Americans to join the fight for a better America where workers have good paying jobs and affordable health benefits,” said Paul Blank, campaign director for WakeUpWalMart.com.

Launched last year by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, Wake Up Wal-Mart is one of two major campaigns pushing for Wal-Mart to change its business model. One feature of the tour is the debut of a new power point presentation titled “A Costly Truth,” modeled after Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Wal-Mart officials dismissed the tour as a publicity stunt and said the group is targeting the wrong company.

“Wal-Mart offers associates $23 per month health plans, and in some places as low as $11 per month, creates tens of thousands of jobs per year and is selling more organic and environmentally friendly products,” Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar said, according to the Associated Press. Tovar said unions should let working families decide for themselves where to shop.

Last December Wake Up Wal-Mart launched a “Where Would Jesus Shop?” campaign targeted to the faith community. Thirteen moderate Baptist leaders signed an open letter criticizing “immoral business practices” and accusing Wal-Mart of exploiting workers and suppliers for profit.

The group’s faith outreach also included screenings of last year’s documentary by Robert Greenwald, “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” in houses of worship.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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