Wal-Mart jobs offer draws critics

WASHINGTON – Wal-Mart’s announcement Tuesday that they’ll guarantee jobs for thousands of recently separated veterans drew plenty of praise for the company but also complaints from critics who say the retailer’s offer is more about publicity than helping war heroes.

The advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense labeled the move a “crass publicity stunt” designed to put veterans in “dead-end jobs.” Editors at The Atlantic and the Washington Post note the company’s high employee-turnover rate makes the move less magnanimous.

And readers at stripes.com pointed out that Wal-Mart could pull in up to $9,600 in tax breaks per veteran hired, a financial boost they argued calls into question the real reason behind the hirings.

Wal-Mart officials would not directly respond to the attacks. They said jobs will include some part-time and entry-level positions, and they don’t expect all of the veterans hired under the new program to become career employees.

“Not every returning veteran wants to work in retail,” Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon said in his program announcement. “But every veteran who does will have a place to go.”

Paul Sullivan, executive director with Veterans for Common Sense, said he believes the offer could be harmful to veterans only seeking a short-term paycheck, because of the company’s anti-union stance and questionable benefits offerings.

“Veterans need real jobs with fair wages, career opportunities, benefits, and protections against employer abuses,” he said.

Still, the White House called the Wal-Mart announcement a model for businesses across the country, and First Lady Michelle Obama praised the pledge as a win for veterans and for the company.

Wal-Mart said the new hiring program, which is open to any honorably discharged veteran who left the military in the last year, will start on Memorial Day.

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