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Obama, at Wal-Mart, touts efficiency -- but angers labor groups



By JIM KUHNHENN

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- President Barack Obama is showcasing Wal-Mart, often a target of labor groups and other Democratic constituencies, to promote advances in energy efficiency in his broader campaign to confront climate change.

Obama on Friday was to announce commitments from more than 300 companies and local and state governments to use solar energy technology. He also was announcing executive actions aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings and appliances. The White House says the solar effort will power the equivalent of 130,000 homes and the administrative actions could reduce carbon pollution in an amount equal to taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

The White House chose Wal-Mart because the company has committed to doubling the number of solar energy projects at its stores, Sam's Clubs and distribution centers.

But in choosing the giant retailer as the backdrop for his announcement, Obama triggered a backlash from labor unions and pay equity advocates who say Wal-Mart pays low wages and who archly noted that Obama has made pay equity a central issue of his presidency.

"What numbskull in the White House arranged this?" former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served in the Bill Clinton administration, said in a posting on Facebook on Thursday.

"While he's in California, I would hope President Obama would speak directly to Wal-Mart employees and hear from them about their daily struggles to pay the rent and put food on the table," said Maria Elena Durazo, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

Wal-Mart says it pays wages that are competitive in the retail industry.

The clashing energy vs. jobs message is not new to the White House. Labor unions, for example, have pressed the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada into the U.S. because it would create jobs. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline, and the administration recently put off a decision on whether to approve it, likely until after the November congressional elections.

Obama was wrapping up a three-day trip mostly devoted to raising money for the Democratic Party.

Complicating things for the White House, Obama on Thursday attended a fundraiser hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who sits on Wal-Mart's board of directors.

In promoting the energy efficiency announcement ahead of Friday's event, the White House said solar energy prices have dropped markedly in four years, with solar panels now costing about 60 percent less.

"All of this means more jobs in the industry, which is now supporting more than 140,000 good-paying American jobs and that are increasing at a rate of 20 percent per year," said Dan Utech, a special assistant to Obama on energy and climate change.

The White House said Obama also would announce completion of energy efficiency standards for walk-in coolers and freezers typically used in grocery stores.

The rule on walk-in freezers was proposed last August under an agreement with attorneys general from 10 states and New York City. The states, along with House and Senate Democrats, have been urging Obama to move faster to implement proposed efficiency standards, including those for commercial walk-in coolers and freezers, which were due in 2012.

---

Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.

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robtucan May 09 2014 at 10:38 AM

The midget is the numskull. Walmart provides good jobs for people who otherwise would be on welfare. and look who shops there, the low income people. The 1%ers and the big unions just want their share and they are not getting it. Good for poor people.........

Flag Reply +7 rate up
djs8888 May 09 2014 at 10:45 AM

Numbskull... Hadn't called him that yet...

Flag Reply +5 rate up
kay May 09 2014 at 10:45 AM

Maybe the unions don't have the pocket buttoned down for nobama! Unions are a business on their own, how much money does a Union executive make? The union exec gets paid no matter how many member lose their jobs!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
acornappraisal May 09 2014 at 10:47 AM

Our local WalMart does not pay competitive wages...and not surprising...the staffers over there all look depressed and bedraggled. We finally had enough of that and decided to use Meijers which is about 10 minutes further but...a bright, friendly store filled with happy looking staff..eager to help. We understand they make good wages and have insurance plans...and are treated like valuable employees. It shows on their faces and in their demeanor. We are 'done' with WalMart. Increasingly grim looking inside, populated by what looks like 'Mole People'. Depressed and depressing...while the WalMart family are billionaires...and crowing about how they are supporting the economy...so were the Overlords in the Black Ages! .

Flag Reply +5 rate up
2 replies
kamdrgon acornappraisal May 09 2014 at 10:59 AM

Thank you acorn...finally, a voice of reason. I wish I had a Meijers to go to - we're effin' surrounded by Walmarts where I am, sadly.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
doketx acornappraisal May 09 2014 at 11:15 AM

I'm with you. I quit shopping at Wal-mart a long time ago. It is, without a doubt the most depressing place to shop that I have ever frequented, and I live in Austin, Texas; we must have twenty or thirty Wal-marts, and they're all equally depressing. As for the Wal-mart family helping the economy: whose economy are they helping besides those of Bangladesh and China?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
partsautomall May 09 2014 at 10:50 AM

THE MESSIAH-THE DIVIDER IN CHIEF-THE GUY WHO GIVES CHILLS TO CHRIS MATTHEWS.THIS POS IS AN IMPOSTOR.IMPEACH NOW

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
sieiantn partsautomall May 09 2014 at 10:56 AM

How long have you been suffering from these delusions? Must have been brought on by those Bush years! I suggect that you take a good dose of intelligence and stop listening to Fox News!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
rmjrburton partsautomall May 09 2014 at 2:30 PM

No end to the lies this President can tell. Another 4 P's today. Washington Post- guess the delusional clowns will say anything for a government ride. No jobs for anyone . People need more money from someone else. The clown show is over. These free ride people do want to work anyway. Every body owes them.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Captchess May 09 2014 at 10:51 AM

Hey, we can't expect Obama to think of everything . . . . in fact we can't expect him to think at all.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
1 reply
sieiantn Captchess May 09 2014 at 10:54 AM

Based on your statement, the only nonthinker is clearly YOU!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
bigbirds82 May 09 2014 at 10:53 AM

ITS BUSHES FAULT....DUDE

Flag Reply +2 rate up
maxadapter May 09 2014 at 10:53 AM

The moron strikes again

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Omer May 09 2014 at 10:54 AM

What is worse- A 'president' who destroys jobs, or a bunch of whiners with jobs who feel they aren't getting enough? How's that 'hope/change' thing working, again?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
ptmkapsovar May 09 2014 at 10:54 AM

Just shows how LOW the Unions will go, bunch of scum bags! Turning something GOOD into something "bad" is disgusting!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
pewtrfreak ptmkapsovar May 09 2014 at 11:13 AM

This country was made great by its unions !!!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
petermacso pewtrfreak May 09 2014 at 11:58 AM

Tell your sorry tale to the 6.5% who are Union members in the Private Sector, they've HAD their day, long live RIGHT TO WORK!

Flag +1 rate up
Omer pewtrfreak May 09 2014 at 12:19 PM

That was long ago. Unions have, by FAR, outlived their usefulness. Now they are completely corrupt, and use their money to buy politicians.

Flag +1 rate up
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