In a public relations move which is generating a lot of praise, even from our First Lady, Wal-Mart has announced that it would hire any and all veterans who come their way.
The announcement came with the requisite amount of pomp and circumstance. From the New York Times:
The announcement, to be made in a speech in New York by William S. Simon, the president and chief executive of Wal-Mart U.S., represents among the largest hiring commitments for veterans in history.
Company officials said they believe the program, which will officially begin on Memorial Day — May 27 this year — will lead to the hiring of more than 100,000 people in the next five years, the length of the commitment.
“Let’s be clear: Hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make,” Mr. Simon will say in his keynote speech to the National Retail Federation, according to prepared text. “These are leaders with discipline, training and a passion for service.”
In a statement, the first lady, Michelle Obama, who has led a campaign by the White House to encourage businesses to hire veterans, called the Wal-Mart plan “historic,” adding that she planned to urge other corporations to follow suit.
Forgive me for being a bit cynical.
From Wal-Mart’s perspective, this is an amazing deal. They get disciplined, well-trained employees who come with government health insurance, so they won’t bitch about the fact that Wal-Mart health insurance is either unavailable or if available, outrageously priced. All employers should be so smart.
Our veterans deserve better.
There is absolutely no question that unemployment among veterans is a problem which will only get worse as soldiers leave both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2014. Wal-Mart’s promise won’t increase the number of available jobs. It will simply mean that veterans will be hired before non-veterans. It also won’t increase the quality of available jobs.
The average Wal-Mart employee makes just $8.81 and hour (or $15,576 per year based on Walmart’s “full time” hours of 34 per week). The wage is significantly below poverty level for a family and less than half of the minimum pay for a soldier. A post-military life at Wal-Mart will doom a veteran to poverty and will get him or her no further in life than if they had never served in the military to begin with.
More significantly, it demonstrates how veterans were lied to by their military recruiters. It’s clear that military training does not directly translate into civilian training. Veterans do have qualities that are attractive to employers, even those who pay more than Wal-Mart, but the qualities tend to be intangible. Overall, veterans have great work ethics. They respect authority and they do a great job, but is stocking shelves or driving a forklift really the future they had envisioned?
Many will argue, as they always do, that a job is a job and even a Wal-Mart job is better than none. I suppose that argument could be true, but don’t we owe our veterans better than better than nothing? Perhaps the military should keep its promise and train them for more than just a job at Wal-Mart.
|Wendy Gittleson is a seasoned writer, a dog lover and an avid political junkie. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. In her rare down times, you’ll find her somewhere in the mountains or near the beach. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|