updated 7/31/2006 3:39:05 AM ET 2006-07-31T07:39:05

One of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s most vociferous union-funded critics is taking its campaign against the world’s largest retailer on the road with a cross-country bus tour from New York to Seattle.

The tour begins Tuesday and will feature several Democratic politicians.

WakeUpWalMart.com, launched last year by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, will visit 35 cities in 19 states for 35 days of rallies, town hall meetings and state fair visits to back its calls on Wal-Mart for higher pay and better health insurance for workers.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., dismissed the tour as a “political stunt” and said the group was attacking 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.

Unions should let working families decide for themselves where to shop, Tovar said.

WakeUpWalMart.com said Democratic politicians appearing at some of the stops will include Ohio U.S. Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards.

The group approached Republicans as well but got no response, said Chris Kofinis, a spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.

Both sides have been sparring since WakeUpWalMart.com and Wal-Mart Watch launched separate campaigns last year to pressure Wal-Mart for change after failing for years to organize its stores. Wal-Mart Watch is backed by the Service Employees International Union. Both groups say they want to pressure Wal-Mart into becoming a better employer, not run it out of business.

In response, Wal-Mart hired a team of about 35 consultants at Edelman, which bills itself as the world’s largest independently owned public relations company, as well as lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

The company has also launched a raft of initiatives, including adding more affordable health care plans for employees, adopting ambitious environmental goals and boosting diversity among employees and its suppliers.

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