Mega retailer Wal-Mart says it will hire 100,000 newly discharged veterans over the next five years and will buy an additional $50 billion worth of U.S.-made products over the next ten years.
The new effort, said Wal-Mart U.S. Chief Executive Bill Simon on Tuesday, is the company’s way of lending a helping hand to the sputtering U.S. economy and boosting lackluster employment figures.
“We’ve developed a national paralysis that’s driven by all of us waiting for someone else to do something,” said Simon. “But if we’re waiting on government, we’re waiting on a process that can’t act with the same speed as business.”
No sooner did Simon make his statement than did unions begin attacking America’s nation’s largest private employer, saying they should raise wages and work hours:
“Retailers like Walmart could provide the nation with a much needed economic boost by paying higher wages and providing stable scheduling – while still remaining profitable and continuing to offer low prices,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a statement. “By part-timing their workforce, they’re hurting both workers and our economy by fueling underemployment.”
The Wal-Mart announcement may create problems for Democrats who have bashed the popular retailer for years. President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State nominee John F. Kerry previously said Wal-Mart is “disgraceful” and a symbol of “what’s wrong with America.”
In 2006, then-Sen. Joe Biden excoriated Wal-Mart as a heartless corporate behemoth: “My problem with Wal-Mart is that I don’t see any indication that they care about the fate of middle-class people.” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) jumped on the Biden bandwagon: “All you need to know is Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont have appeared at these events. That’s pretty good evidence that Democrats across the country are rallying around this issue.”
Disgraced former senator and one-time Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards made Wal-Mart one of his go-to rhetorical punching bags. “Our party pretty much across the board agrees that people who work hard should be able to support their families. When a company like Wal-Mart fails to meet its corporate responsibility, it makes it impossible for that to occur,” said Edwards.
In 2011, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation donated $958.9 million in cash and in-kind contributions to philanthropic endeavors.