Why Wal-Mart is hiring so many veterans

The company is getting some positive word of mouth for its plan. It also gets some help with its huge turnover.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 15, 2013 4:18PM
Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey / Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesWal-Mart Stores (WMT) isn't planning to hire more than 100,000 veterans over the next five years out of the goodness of its heart, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

As Matthew Yglesias at Slate notes,  "Wal-Mart is anticipating that demand conditions will warrant them adding a fair amount of staff over the next few years and that honorable service in the military is a good screening device."

Wall Street didn't have much response to the program, which goes into effect Memorial Day along with a pledge to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made goods over the next decade. Shares of Wal-Mart, whose offer is only open to those with honorable discharges, barely budged Tuesday.

Derek Thompson at the Atlantic argued that Wal-Mart has been besieged lately by negative news such as the bribery scandal in Mexico and certainly could use some positive public relations. He also noted that Wal-Mart, like many retailers, has a huge turnover, so promising 100,000 veterans a job isn't as generous of an offer as it may seem. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though, could certainly use the help.

According to the latest data, the unemployment rate for former members of the military was 9.9%, the lowest since 2008, though well above the national average of 7.8%. That's particularly shameful given the billions taxpayers have spent training soldiers, sailors and Marines to do every type of job imaginable. Sadly, there were record numbers of suicides in the military last year. Of course, Wal-Mart's offer doesn't solve veterans' many problems but it certainly is helpful.

Veterans will be eligible for everything from part-time work to more senior roles, depending on their particular qualifications, according to Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark., company.

"If they want a job in retail, they have one at Wal-Mart," she said in an interview.

The push to hire veterans is nothing new for Wal-Mart. It has recruited members of the military for managerial roles for years and currently has about 100,000 veterans on its U.S. payroll of 1.4 million. William Simon, the head of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations, served in the Navy. The company pledged in 2011 to donate $20 million to veterans charities, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which applauded Tuesday's announcement.

'With unemployment for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans often above 10% in 2012, we need more employers to appreciate that these young men and women are not a charity, they are an investment," says Paul Rieckhoff, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America,in a statement to MSN. "Wal-Mart's footprint is large enough that they can single-handedly impact that unemployment number, especially if they exceed their 100,000 jobs goal."

Over the next few months, it will be interesting to see how many veterans will take Wal-Mart up on its offer and, of those that do, how many wind up sticking around for a year or more. That may prove to be a vexing challenge, as the Atlantic's Thompson notes.

"I know this may sound like quibbling, but Wal-Mart -- just like pretty much all big-box retailers -- still pays most of its workforce pretty miserably," he writes. "The average sales associate makes around $8 an hour. If that's the best we can for our veterans, we're not really doing very much."

--Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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Tags: Economy
Jan 16, 2013 2:01AM
Funny how people complain about $8 an hour..... my husband, a veteran, has been unemployed since october. Today he applied at walmart after reading a similar article, do you know why? Because $8 an hour is better than $0 an hour.
Most of my family is still in the philippines. I send my grandmother $150 a month, that is all she gets to live off of. My aunt works everyday and gets paid for 1/2 of her hours. I send my cousin milk money when I can so her kids can have milk.....my point.....Walmart may not be the best opportunity, it may not be the most wonderful place to work, but it's better than nothing. It's better than other countries, or sitting at home collecting government help while waiting for what we thing we deserve. That feeling of entitlment "I'm better than working here" is why many people don't have jobs right now. Nobody is above working at walmart, nobody is above washing dishes or picking potatoes from a field.
A job is a job....you clock in, you do your work, you go home. You put food on the table, and you count your blessings.
Jan 15, 2013 9:02PM
The Stimulus package provides Wal-Mart a tax credit of up to $2,400 per each qualified veteran discharged between 2008 and 2011.  If Wal-Mart hires 100,000 qualified veterans their tax credit would be $240 million.  I suspect Wal-Mart's patriotism may be outweighed by the fat tax incentives.
Jan 15, 2013 7:03PM

$8 an hour, are you kidding?  They pay $7.50 an hour with no mention of raises.  They hire part-time but expecet their employees to work under 40 hours a week, considering part-time employees to work 39 1/2 hours, sitll part-time with no benefits.  Get the point? 


My friend worked at Wal-Mart for 3 years, never missed a day and was never late (this was 10 years ago when they hired full time).  She found out she needed surgery and after she told them she would need 6 weeks off, all the sudden she was unaable to do her job right, was constantly criticized and within 2 weeks she was fired.  Hence - She had no insurace to pay for her surgery.  Get the point?


Understand Wal-Mart now?

Jan 15, 2013 6:29PM
I worked there a couple of years of ago when they started to hire vets, especially in manager positions, and from what I saw there was a 75-80 % turnover with them because of the working conditions.  We had a store manager that was a combat copter pilot in Afghanastain and Iraq, after 3 months he quit because he found the job to stressful.
Jan 15, 2013 5:39PM
And no health care benefits to worry about!
Jan 15, 2013 7:20PM
Cheap labor,no benefits, so they can continue the rally of  selling cheap china products!!Like electronics!
Jan 15, 2013 7:31PM
Hmmm....100,000 at $9000 per Veteran equals a whopping $900,000,000 tax credit. Yep, corporate America knows how to use us well.
Jan 15, 2013 8:20PM

This all about PR.They do hire older workers which a lot of companies won`t.My uncle

is a young 60 and can`t get a job.They can`t ask when you were born on applications

but they ask when you went to high school.Who is kidding who?

Jan 15, 2013 9:29PM
Our veterans deserve any and all opportunities to get back to their lives prior to serving. Walmart  is  offering  our veterans a choice to work there if they desire. As a former Marine, coming back to an $8 an hour job versus no job is like  this:  i slapped you in the face, but i didn't kick you in the balls!!!!! Semper Fi.
Jan 15, 2013 7:05PM
I strongly advise against working for this company!  Wal-Mart is part of the problem not the solution!!!!!  A bunch of fat idiots for management wasted 8 years of my life being abused by these scumbags!
Jan 15, 2013 5:42PM

Now if they would only pay a living wageNot All Vetrans are manager material the ones that arent dont get paid worth the crap


Jan 15, 2013 8:25PM

I agree this hiring announcement is not out of the goodness of their hearts.  In addition, to the fact that veterans are usually covered by VA health benefits, isn't it true that there might also be federal tax credits for employers hiring returning vets.

Jan 15, 2013 10:28PM
I will tell any vet. (do not work for Wal-Mart they suck) they flat out do not care about any of there employees. The worse management i have seen.
Jan 15, 2013 10:58PM
dont work at walmart, you get very low pay and no benifits.
Jan 15, 2013 11:20PM
Walmart will pay him minimum wages,no paid vacation, no OT, less than 40 hours a week and go to the VA for your medical benefits.
Jan 15, 2013 8:18PM
Don't show them where the gun rack is or it'll necessitate a serious cleanup in aisle 3.

 "The average sales associate makes around $8 an hour. If that's the best we can for our veterans, we're not really doing very much."

No one in this country can survive on this amount. Min. wage should be at least 25 dollars per hour with a maximum wage of 10 times the lowest paid employee for the highest paid person or the CEO in this case.

Jan 15, 2013 7:40PM
National "Average" of 7.8% HA HA HA....try 9%....good try msnbs
Jan 15, 2013 7:00PM
Dem Walmarts is subsidized bi da the general public * To da tune of $400,000 Dollars per store by da Federal and State as dem Walmart peoples don't make enought to live with out Welfare,Food stamps* and da public hog trough at our exspense dem rich ****er's ain't stupid Ya know's ? Huh
Jan 16, 2013 7:11AM
Couple thoughts.  It's partly about PR and partly about the new "hire a hero" legislation which gives tax credits for hiring some of the more recent vets.  I work for a contractor that was founded by a couple veterans over 60 years ago and hires a lot of vets, and did so long before the tax credits went into place, and would still hire them as we feel they are some of the best employees.  As far as the pay, benefits, and conditions at Walmart go? IT'S WALMART!  Walmart has never boasted about being a living wage company.  It's cheap retail, and usually considered to be a stepping stone.  The cheap wages are why the prices are so low.  If you buy a toaster at Walmart, it's probably made in the same Chinese factory as the toaster that you buy at Macys.  The difference is mostly in the wages and benefits.  Some of you are posting complaints about Walmart being the hub of cheap imports, yet either turn around and buy their products or go to a higher end retailer and buy cheap imports at a higher price.  I'm not defending Walmart, just stating some thoughts on the situation. Try being part of the solution and seek out American made products whenever possible-if you can even find them anymore.  The higher prices you'll pay are mostly because of wages and benefits. You can't have it both ways.
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