Wal-Mart offers to hire more than 100,000 veterans over 5 years

 

Wal-Mart employees Jon Christians and Lori Harris take job applications and answers questions during a job fair at the University of Illinois Springfield campus. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and nation’s largest private employer, said Tuesday it is making a pledge to boost its sourcing from domestic suppliers and hire more than 100,000 veterans. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer and the nation’s largest private employer, is making a pledge to hire every veteran who wants a job.

The plan is set to be announced as part of an address delivered in New York on Tuesday at the annual retail industry convention by Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., says it projects it will hire more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years. Honorably discharged veterans will have a “place to go”, says Walmart’s Simon, according to prepared text supplied by the discounter.

The hiring pledge, which will begin on Memorial Day, covers veterans within 12 months of leaving active duty. Most of the jobs will be in Wal-Mart’s stores or its Sam’s club locations. Some will be in the company’s distribution centers.

“Let’s be clear; hiring a veteran can be one of the best decisions any of us can make,” Simon plans to say in his address to retailers gathered on the third day of the four-day National Retail Federation convention. “Veterans have a record of performance under pressure. They’re quick learners, and they’re team players. These are leaders with discipline, training, and a passion for service. There is a seriousness and sense of purpose that the military instills, and we need it today more than ever.”

Wal-Mart says it believes it is already the large private employer of veterans in the country.

“It’s a good pool of labor that fits well into how Walmart runs its business, with potential associates that are accustomed to a chain of command, standard operating procedures, disciplined scheduling,” Colin McGranahan, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, said in an email. “It also generates positive PR for Walmart at a time when the company could certainly use some.”

Aside from the positive publicity, the initiative could generate as much as $960 million in tax breaks for the retailer.

Under a U.S. tax provision that was extended through 2013, employers can get tax credits of as much as $9,600 for hiring veterans, depending on their disability status, hours of work and other criteria. The one-year extension was part of the tax law that President Barack Obama signed Jan. 2 and is estimated to cost the government $125 million in foregone revenue in the next decade.

The full $960 million in tax credits would only be reached if Wal-Mart hired all 100,000 employees from the category with the largest available credit and Congress extends the break for four more years. The actual number probably will be smaller because the $9,600 credit is available only for hiring disabled veterans with periods of unemployment exceeding six months.

Simon said in his remarks prepared for the National Retail Federation’s annual convention that Wal-Mart would “bring more transparency to our scheduling system so part-time workers can choose more hours for themselves.” Employees and union-backed activists have complained in the past that Wal-Mart’s system leaves employees with erratic schedules and fewer hours than they want.

“We want all of our associates to find the career opportunities they want with Walmart,” Simon said. “We will make sure part-time associates have full visibility into full-time job openings in their stores and nearby stores, and that they always have first shot at those jobs.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice are probing allegations that Wal-Mart bribed officials to speed its expansion in Mexico. The company also has been criticized following reports that its suppliers were making garments at a Bangladesh factory where more than 100 people died in a November blaze. Earlier that month, the company came under fire for opening stores on Thanksgiving night, requiring employees to work on the holiday.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., praised Wal-Mart’s hiring plan in statements released by the company and asked other businesses to follow its lead in helping veterans

In the next several weeks, the White House will convene the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and major U.S. employers to encourage businesses to make significant commitments to train and employ American’s returning veterans, according to Simon’s prepared text.

Wal-Mart which also operates Sam’s Clubs, employs more than 1.4 million workers in the U.S.

The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News, Washington D.C. contributed to this report.

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