The public relations battle over Wal-Mart is definitely heating up. Years of criticism of the company's business practices are now reaching the boiling point, and in return, the company is launching one of the most aggressive counter-offensives in corporate PR history. Last week signaled that the Wal-Mart PR war had reached a new stage. Critics pounced on Wednesday's news about an internal company memo revealing in gruesome detail how WM depends on public welfare programs to provide health coverage for their employees, and how they aim to hold down health-care costs by "hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart." Wal-Mart's counterpunch has been equally aggressive. In the same week, they announced their intention to launch company-wide plans to offer low-cost health insurance, become a "zero-waste" company, and to support a national boost in the minimum wage. Why the recent escalation? The key backdrop here is the massive national campaign launched by labor and 400 progressive allies, Wal-Mart Watch, which is building towards a national week of action November 13-19 called "Higher Expectations Week." A key focus of the week will be screenings of Robert Greenwald's (of "Outfoxed" fame) documentary, "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price," which premiered yesterday to Wal-Mart's chagrin. Wal-Mart is ready: the NY Times reports today that the company has erected a full-scale PR "War Room," comprised of ex-Bush and Clinton campaign staffers, for rapid-response attacks on critics: One target of the effort are "swing voters," or consumers who have not soured on Wal-Mart. The new approach appears to reflect a fear that Wal-Mart's critics are alienating the very consumers it needs to keep growing, especially middle-income Americans motivated not just by price, but by image. This could be a break-out moment for those demanding greater accountability from the world's largest employer and retailer -- which, if successful, would have a huge ripple effect throughout the economy. The Institute is helping coordinate the Nov. 13-19 week of action in the N.C. Triangle, including sponsoring three theater screenings of "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" with The Independent Weekly and the N.C. Justice Center. Come join us to learn more and to find out how you can get involved! SUNDAY, NOV. 13, RALEIGH -- Press Conference and Screening of "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price." Press conference starts at 1:30 p.m., screening at 2 p.m., Colony Theater. MONDAY, NOV. 14, DURHAM -- "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" screening and discussion. 7 p.m., Carolina Theater. TUESDAY, NOV. 15, CARY -- "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price" screening and discussion. 7 p.m., Galaxy Theater. Check here for other campus and community-based screenings in the Triangle area. UPDATE: There are two sites listing screenings of the Wal-Mart documentary: visit here or here to find out where it's showing in your area. And if you'd like to make a plug for a screening you're helping put on, let us know in the comments!