Obama at Wal-Mart rightly deserves a video title like the above headline. And the “bunch of people” that are upset about Obama’s visit to Walmart are not just Americans who are aware of the unjust treatment of Walmart towards its workers but also labor unions. As reported by the Los Angeles Times on May 9, “President Obama appears to have warmed up to Wal-Mart, much to the frustration of his party's labor wing.”
When Obama ran for president six years ago, he said that he would not shop at Walmart. And many Americans believed him. After all, America’s largest private mega-retailer is known for low wages, insufficient health insurance, and taking as much from as its workers as it can.
On Friday, however, Obama showed up in the clothing section of a Walmart store in Mountain View in California and gave a speech praising Walmart for its efficient use of solar energy. Apparently, instead of supporting its workers, that is what the store had spent its money on – solar panels.
Obama’s short speech on Friday, which can be viewed on YouTube, stands in stark contrast to a speech given in February of 2009 when he said "I don't mind standing up for workers and letting Walmart know they need to pay a decent wage and let folks organize."
Evidently, over time, solar panels have become more important than workers. During Friday’s speech, there was no mention of the retail store’s commitment to its workers, only to its energy program. “I want to thank the folks at Wal-Mart. Because more and more companies like Walmart are realizing that wasting less energy isn’t just good for the planet, it’s good for business. It’s good for the bottom line.”
"Business" and “the bottom line” is what this appears to be all about. According to a Washington Wire report, the White House administration is pushing its climate change agenda while Michelle Obama is pushing her anti-obesity agenda at Walmart. Before her husband ran for president, Michelle Obama was on the board of TreeHouse Foods Inc., a Wal-Mart vendor, since June 27, 2005, and resigned in May of 2007, stating that she quit because of the “increased demands” on her time as her husband was running for election.
In January of 2008, Obama’s campaign blasted his rival Hillary Clinton for serving on the Wal-Mart board. His reason – the retailer was “one of the least environmentally friendly, least labor-union friendly companies in the country.”
In response to Obama’s Walmart speech on Friday, which marked the first time a sitting president visited a Wal-Mart location, Joe Hansen, international president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said that Obama was sending “a terrible message to workers across America. President Obama will stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation.” Robert Reich, who was the secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration, described the event as “ill-advised photo opportunities” and asked the question that many are asking “what numbskull in the White House arranged this?”