MOTHER'S DAY MARCHERS: The United Food and Commercial Workers' Union will spend Mother's Day protesting outside four Wal-Mart and Kmart stores in California over health care reform.

The UFCW, a longstanding critic of the retailers' fierce opposition to employer-mandated health care, said Tuesday it would also be soliciting customers outside the stores to urge Congress to require business to shoulder some of the cost of health care.

"To honor our nation's mothers, we must remove forever a mother's fear that she won't have affordable health care for her family," the UFCW said. The protests will be staged in front of three Wal-Marts, located in Sante, Gilroy and Oxford. The Kmart protest will be outside its Buena Park store.

"While Wal-Mart and Kmart are happy to take money from us as customers, both corporations have taken positions that are killing affordable health care for our families," the UFCW argues.

SPECIALTY STOCKS: Kmart Corp. reiterated Monday that it will extract cash from its four specialty chains through the public sale of stock on each subsidiary, and provided details of the plan, which it announced in January.

As reported, the cash will help strengthen the Troy, Mich.-based company, which has recently been dragged down by its sagging discount store business.

Steven Kernkraut, an analyst at Bear Stearns & Co., said Kmart will use the money to pay down debt and refurbish stores to the Super Kmart Center format. He noted that Kmart is trying to establish itself as a discount store with a strong apparel presence, but faces tough competition from Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, Roebuck and J.C. Penney.

"Kmart's discount stores are critical to its future," Kernkraut said. "They've got the right strategy, and this offering should provide the cash to fix up the stores, but then we'll have to see how they execute the strategy on a day-to-day basis. That's when we'll see how Kmart will perform versus the competition."

The subsidiaries are Sports Authority Group, the Borders-Walden bookstore group, OfficeMax and Builders Square.

Kmart plans to begin the sale of the specialty business "target" stock immediately following shareholders' approval at its annual meeting, June 3. Stakes of 20 to 30 percent in the specialty chains will be sold. The target stock will be issued as a special series of Kmart stock.

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