In an effort to improve its battered image, Wal-Mart announced Tuesday it will hire any returning veteran who wants a job.
In a speech to the National Retail Federation in New York on Tuesday, Chief Executive Bill Simon said in addition, the company would buy more products from the U.S. and help more employees become full time.
Simon said he got the idea for these initiatives from the 2012 election and the gridlock in Congress.
“The election clarified for me that it’s time for those of us outside politics to get to work,” he said. “I find it fascinating that during the campaign we all waited with bated breath each month for the government to tell us how many private-sector jobs were created. After all, it’s the private sector that creates jobs.”
Wal-Mart said it plans to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years as part of a program to offer a job to “any honorably discharged veteran in his or her first 12 months off active duty.” Simon said veterans are often good employees, and that his company plans to begin hiring them after Memorial Day; placing them in jobs in stores, clubs, distribution centers and in the corporate office.
Some retail workers questioned whether veterans would want to work for Wal-Mart. They include Edgar Lucas, 38, a U.S. Army veteran who has worked for Wal-Mart and other retailers in New York.
"If you are looking out for the veterans, they need something that’s guaranteed 40 hours a week," he said. "They need to know their schedules."
Simon pledged to bring more transparency to the store’s scheduling system to allow part-time workers to choose their own hours, and said Wal-Mart would make internal changes to help part-timers become full time. He didn't provide details about how the company would do that. He did say, however, that 75% of Wal-Mart’s store management started as hourly associates.
A CUNY study shows that almost 60% of the retail workforce consists of people hired as part-time or temporary and that only 17% of workers have a set schedule.
Simon said about two-thirds of the company’s goods are made, grown or sourced in the United States. Rising labor costs in Asia and increasing costs of oil and transportation have made manufacturing more expensive overseas than it once was.
This month lawmakers found out Wal-Mart’s Mexico unit was handing out bribes to local officials to speed up getting building permits and gain other favors, with the knowledge of company executives. U.S. law forbids American companies from bribing foreign officials.
The morning after the last Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart employees staged protests in several stores in the United States as well as Argentina, Mexico, Bangladesh and other countries, for low wages for longer working hours, and poor working conditions.