By JIM VINES
To answer questions from many of you about Walmart’s hiring of veterans, I describe this move as both masterful public relations and a sincere gracious decision.
Walmart has pledged, starting Memorial Day, it will hire any military veteran who applies for a job within a year from their honorable discharge. The nation’s largest retailer expects to ultimately hire more than 100,000 veterans within five years, mostly for jobs at its stores and distribution centers. The head of Walmart’s military program has stipulated, however, that the company might be able to hire some veterans part time.
It’s commendable that Walmart is taking steps to help recent veterans, who have a higher unemployment rate that non-veterans, but don’t read too much into what this decision means about the company or the economy. Here are a few reasons:
• PR – Walmart has been under the spotlight both for a bribery scandal in Mexico, shipment of manufactured goods from abroad and for its labor practices here at home. The company is keenly aware that troubling headlines can drive customers away or throw a wrench into their expansion plans. So over the years, it has learned to counter bad press by taking on legitimately worthwhile causes in order to change the media narrative.
Such was the case with its push to be environmentally sustainable in the past decade, which also just happened to wring costs from its supply chain. This time around, along with veteran hiring, the company says it will push to source more of its goods domestically.
• No statement about the company – Walmart’s hiring is probably not just out of the goodness of their hearts and more likely means they expect customer demands to pick up. Not so sure. Like any retailer, Walmart loses lots of employees every year. The company claims to have an annual turnover rate of around 37 percent. With 1.4 million U.S. employees, that means it needs to hire more than 500,000 people every year at its stores which, if processed, is kind of nuts. In that context, 100,000 veterans over five years really isn’t that big a number. Moreover, the company says it already employs about 100,000 veterans, meaning they’ve probably found them to be reliable workers, enough so that they’re willing to hire them virtually no question asked.
This may sound like quibbling, but Walmart, just like much all big-box retailers, still pays most of its workforce pretty miserably. According to an IBISWorld analysis, the average sales associate makes around $8 an hour. If that’s the best that can be offered our veterans, that’s not doing very much. Also, Walmart receives a tax credit for hiring veterans, saving thousands of dollars per new employee.
Without a doubt, the decision by Walmart officials to hire more veterans who want jobs is commendable. Hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions made. Veterans are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. The government has an obligation to make sure the men and women who have served this country are prepared to return to civilian life.
The private sector also has a moral obligation to show its support by employing these veterans. What we cannot tolerate is the use of veterans for selfish gains. An honest day’s pay, for an honest day’s work.
Thank you for your questions and inquiries.
Speak to you again next week.
Jim Vines is commander of AmVets Post 133.