Company Promises to Move Veterans and the Economy With New Corporate Strategy
Wal-Mart intends to hire veterans—an army of them. It also
intends to move quickly where government can’t: private industry.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and the biggest private employer in the U.S. with 1.4 million workers, said it’s rolling out a three-part plan to help grease the wheels of a sluggish U.S. economy today.
Pledge to Hiring Vets
The company’s plan includes hiring more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years, spending $50 billion to buy more American-made merchandise in the next 10 years, and helping part-time workers move into full-time positions sooner.
The surprise move comes as Wal-Mart attempts to bolster a tarnished reputation having been hit in the past year by an alleged bribery scandal in Mexico and a deadly fire at a Bangladesh clothing factory.
Wal-Mart is criticized for its low-paying jobs and buying habits in the U.S. It said its new company strategy intends to highlight career opportunities in the retail industry which supports one in four jobs in the US and with $444 billion in annual revenue.
“We’ve developed a national paralysis that’s driven by all of us waiting for someone else to do something,” Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. business, said. “The beauty of the private sector is that we don’t have to win an election, convince Congress or pass a bill to do what we think is right. We can simply move forward, doing what we know is right,” Simon said.
At the epicenter of Wal-Mart’s plan is a pledge to hire veterans, many of who have come home from Afghanistan and Iraq and are having a particularly hard time finding jobs. The unemployment rate for veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan stood at 10.8 percent in December, compared with the overall unemployment rate of 7.8 percent.
The program, which will start on Memorial Day, will include jobs mostly in Wal-Mart’s stores or in its Sam’s Club locations. Some will be at its headquarters, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, or the company’s distribution centers.
Wal-Mart said it promises to hire every veteran who wants a job and has been honorably discharged in the first 12 months of active duty.
Simon, who served in the Navy, said that veterans have ‘a record of performance under pressure’. “They’re quick learners, and they’re team players. These are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever,” he said.
Wal-Mart said First Lady Michelle Obama, who spearheaded a White House drive to encourage businesses to hire veterans, has expressed an interest through her team in working with Wal-Mart and with the rest of the business community on this initiative.
In the next several weeks, Simon said the White House will meet with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and major U.S. employers to encourage businesses to make commitments to train and employ American’s returning veterans.
The First Lady called Wal-Mart’s announcement ‘historic.’ “We all believe that no one who serves our country should have to fight for a job once they return home. Wal-Mart is setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow,” Ms. Obama said in a statement today.
$50 Billion in US Goods Manufacturing
In addition to hiring veterans, Wal-Mart said that it will spend $50 billion to buy more products made in the U.S. over the next 10 years. According to data from Wal-Mart’s suppliers, items that are made, sourced or grown in the U.S. account for about two-thirds of the company’s spending on products for its U.S. business.
Wal-Mart said that it plans to focus on buying more in areas such as sporting goods, fashion basics, storage products, games and paper products. The commitment comes as economics are changing for making goods overseas.
Labor costs are rising in Asia, while oil and transportation
costs are high and increasingly uncertain.
The final piece of Wal-Mart’s plan is to help part-time Wal-Mart workers transition into full-time employment if they so wish. Simon said that about 75 percent of its store management start as hourly associates and their average management pay is $50,000 to $170,000 a year.
“There are some fundamental misunderstandings out there about retail jobs, and we need to do better at explaining the many opportunities we offer,” Simon said.
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Let’s be clear: the new corporate strategy is both a sincerely gracious decision and a masterful public relations stroke.
Wal-Mart and the media failed to note that some of the jobs for returning veterans will be for part-time positions. There’s also another bottom line fiscal consideration not being mentioned– the up to $9,600 tax credit offered to employers for hiring returning vets.