Andrew Young continues to disgrace himself. The former champion of social justice, who has been hobnobbing with Republicans in the past decade (because hey, our Andy wants to play for the winning team, and country club memberships and chauffeured limos cost money), has now run a sale on the remnants of his soul to Wal-Mart.

Cross-posted at Booman Tribune ( and The Blogging Curmudgeon (

Civil rights icon tapped to defend Wal-Mart

Civil rights leader and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young will become the public face of a Wal-Mart-backed group whose aim is to combat criticism of the world’s largest retailer, the group said on Monday.

Young, who was an aide to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights protests of the 1960s and served as ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter, will serve as chairman of Working Families for Wal-Mart’s national steering committee, the group said in a statement.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was among the financial backers of Working Families for Wal-Mart, a group of people “who understand and appreciate Wal-Mart’s positive impact on the working families of America,” according to its Web site.

“The critics have it wrong,” Young said in a statement. “For those who care about the poor it is time to step up, speak out and join this national discussion.”

Is there anything that money can’t buy in America? Well, at least Andy and Wal-Mart didn’t announce this devil’s bargain at Coretta Scott King’s funeral.

Nobody who read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed or watched the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price will be convinced by this garbage. But Young trades on his past to make a buck for himself and in the process, sells what’s left of his damaged soul.

Only in America can a former civil rights hero earn top dollar for convincing “working families” that what they need is not a living wage or decent health benefits. It’s access to cheap crap at “low low prices every day”.

If you want to know what Wal-Mart’s really about, try visiting WalMart Watch (, which linked to this story from the Columbus Dispatch:

A day after Wal-Mart pledged to spend more on workers’ health care, Ohio said the state’s largest employer had the most workers on goverment health insurance rolls.

In a report released today, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said the state spent millions last year providing health care, food stamps and in some cases, cash assistance, to tens and thousands of workers of the state’s largest businesses and their dependents.

But actually, Andy Young sold out his principles a long time ago. Here’s his officially approved biography from the Operation Hope website:

Ambassador Young has served as United States Ambassador to the United Nations and as Co-Chair of the Atlanta Committee for the Centennial Olympic Games. He served two terms as Mayor of Atlanta, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, was elected Congressman three times, and is a leading figure in the civil rights movement. He currently serves on the boards of several Fortune 500 companies and was appointed by President Bill Clinton to Chair the $100-million Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund. Ambassador Young is on the National Security Council Advisory Board, and remains active in numerous charitable activities and organizations.

Here’s the thing–most people hear the name “Andy Young” and they think of the fellow who marched with Dr. King, was the American ambassador to the UN, a congressman, and mayor of Atlanta. But what they don’t realise is that at some point, Andy Young decided that the most important person in the world was…Andy Young. One doesn’t fight corporations by sitting on their board–I know that Andy portrays himself as working to change the system from the inside…which means that Dr. King should have run for the city council of Birmingham, Gandhi should have stuck with his legal career, and Henry David Thoreau should have run for Congress to work to get the poll tax changed instead of going to prison to protest it. Once you get inside the System, you don’t change it, it changes you…and it’s a bit hard to be a revolutionary when you’re wearing tailored suits and golfing with white Republicans who explain to you how they’d really, really like to provide health care to their workers but they just can’t afford it.

Dr. King himself wrote about the importance of fighting the System from the outside and not from the inside in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail (16 April 1963):

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored… The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.

Wait, that’s not all Andy Young has been up to: He’s also helping disenfranchise poor blacks in Georgia by endorsing the voter ID requirements signed into law by Georgia’s Republican governor, Sonny Perdue:

Andrew Young is among those corrupt Democrats in sheep’s clothing. The vote thieves always say, “Andrew Young, who marched with Dr. King, sees nothing wrong with identification requirements.” Carter insulates himself from criticism by quoting Young. “It was very encouraging to us that Andy Young, for instance, says this will help minority voting instead of deterring it.”

Yes, that’s Jimmy Carter, the former President, who co-chaired the Commission on Election Reform with…no, this is not a joke, JAMES BAKER…yes, the same James Baker who is the consigliere to the Bush Family Mafia and who was instrumental in shutting down the Florida vote recount in 2000. And Andy Young is lending his iconic status as a civil rights hero to the wholesale disenfranchisement of black voters.

The Commission’s report proves that Conyers had every reason to be concerned. The commission addresses problems that don’t even exist. Their worst recommendation would make photo identification a requirement for voting. The commission rationale for promoting such nonsense is insulting and bizarre.

“Photo IDs currently are needed to board a plane, enter federal buildings, and cash a check. Voting is equally important.” (from the Commission Report)

No, voting is not as important as check cashing or traveling. It is more important. We don’t have the constitutional right to board a plane and no one fought and died to get the right to fly. It should be easier to enter a voting booth than it is to enter an airport.

It is obvious that poor black people would be hardest hit by this requirement. There are thousands of American citizens eligible to vote who do not have identification and are unable to get it. That is precisely why Republicans and co-opted Democrats think it is such a good idea.

It is immaterial that Young marched with Dr. King. In fact, his early history makes his support of disenfranchisement all the more shocking. Young is not just being used to cover Carter’s and Baker’s backsides, he is now praised by the Wall Street Journal, proof of wrongdoing if it ever existed.

“I accept the recounts that show George Bush won” – and says it’s time for fresh thinking. “[Let’s] ask what we do about low voter turnout and whether it’s the result of racial discrimination or not,” he told me. “I don’t think it is, since everyone is equally inconvenienced by how we vote.”

No, Rev. Mr. Young, everyone is not equally inconvenienced by the way we vote. White Ohioans had enough voting machines in their polling places and black Ohioans didn’t. White Floridians did not have to fear being labeled felons when they went to the polls, black Floridians did.

If Young’s history is being used to shut us up, we must ask very critical questions about him. Why did Andrew Young work with King in the first place? Was he a righteous man who wanted to end injustice, or did he only want a seat at the table for himself?

Opponents of Georgia’s voter ID law include Greg Mathis (famous as a television court judge), Representatives Barbara Lee, Cynthia McKinney, and John Conyers. Supporters include US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Wall Street Journal, and the Republican Party of Georgia.

And let’s not forget Andy’s trip to the Nike factories in Southeast Asia, where he proceeded to horrify labor rights groups by proclaiming the working conditions there “good”:

In an inspection report that was prepared in January for the company’s internal use only, Ernst & Young wrote that workers at the factory near Ho Chi Minh City were exposed to carcinogens that exceeded local legal standards by 177 times in parts of the plant and that 77 percent of the employees suffered from respiratory problems.

The report also said that employees at the site, which is owned and operated by a Korean subcontractor, were forced to work 65 hours a week, far more than Vietnamese law allows, for $10 a week.

Only five months ago, the company had taken out full page newspaper ads excerpting Andrew Young, the civil rights advocate and former United Nations representative, who had inspected 15 Nike factories last spring at Nike’s behest. After completing his two-week tour covering three countries, he informed Nike it was doing a “good job” in treating its workers, though he allowed it “should do better.” Young was widely criticized by human rights groups and labor groups for not taking his own translators and for doing slipshod inspections, an assertion he repeatedly denied.

I wonder if anybody has checked the Reverend Mister Young’s voter registration lately–has he formally changed to Republican, or does remaining a registered Democrat help his “street cred”? Certainly this is not the Andrew Young who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.–this is a different man who instead of speaking truth to power, sits on the boards of corporations with people who are the adversaries and exploiters of the poor. This is not the same idealistic young man who marched for civil rights, but a highly paid corporate shill.

A moment of silence, please, while we remember Andrew Young as he once was.

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