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Walmart, Like Lance Armstrong, Seeks Redemption Without Remorse

There's good reason to greet the company's latest make-nice move with a dose of skepticism.

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Here in the United States, workers at warehouses contracted by Walmart in Southern California and Joliet, Ill., walked off the job last year protesting low pay, lack of benefits, unsafe working conditions and faulty equipment. Walmart indicated it might discuss solutions with the workers,  but last week, the retail giant rebuffed them.

Walmart's promise of 100,000 jobs for veterans is a good thing. Even if  some of those jobs will be part-time. Even if the average Walmart wage is  $8.81 an hour -- $15,576 a year -- hardly enough for a veteran -- or anyone else -- to live on. Even if Walmart will pay less than half those wages because the federal government will give companies that hire veterans  tax credits of up to $9,600 a year for each veteran they employ.

Walmart's promise to buy an additional $5 billion a year in American-made products is a good thing. Even if $5 billion is a tiny number to Walmart, which  sold $444 billion worth of stuff last year. Even if Walmart's  demand for ever decreasing prices from suppliers is the reason many say they moved factories overseas where laborers are overworked, underpaid and endangered and where environmental are fire safety laws are ignored. Even if Walmart is buying more American not out of patriotism but because it makes sense financially with both foreign wages and transportation costs rising.

More American manufacturing and more jobs are always good. Thank you, Walmart.

But Walmart and Armstrong shouldn't be surprised if their schemes don't win them reconciliation with the American people. Armstrong's failure to apologize reinforced the sense that he fessed up now only to secure the reprieve he wants from his punishment, from his banishment from certain sports. And Walmart's failure to even acknowledge that it has not been a perfect yellow smiley face of a corporation only evokes cynicism about its motives. No remorse, no redemption.

 

Leo W. Gerard president of the United Steelworkers union. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations.  Follow him on Twitter: @USWBlogger

 
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