Wal-Mart's policy shifts inevitably receive media attention thanks to the company's massive size. Indeed, with $444 billion in annual revenue, if Wal-Mart were a country, it would rank among the largest economies in the world. But critics say the changes amount to a drop in the bucket for the behemoth, and they question whether Wal-Mart's initiatives will have a major impact on the U.S. economy.
"America's largest retailers play an important role in our nation's economy and in the well-being of millions of lives," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. "Retailers like Wal-Mart 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."
The centerpiece of Wal-Mart's plan is a pledge to hire veterans, many of whom have had a particularly difficult time finding work after coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq. 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.
Wal-Mart said it plans to hire every veteran who wants a job and has been honorably discharged in the first 12 months off active duty. 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, Ark. or the company's distribution centers.
Dave Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said Wal-Mart hasn't worked out the details but it will "match up the veterans' experience and qualifications." CEO Simon, who served in the Navy, said that veterans have "a record of performance under pressure," and "They're quick learners."