NEW YORK — Walmart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer and the biggest private employer in the U.S. with 1.4 million workers here, said Tuesday it is rolling out a plan to help jump-start the U.S. economy.
The plan includes hiring more than 100,000 veterans in the next five years, spending $50 billion to buy more American-made merchandise in the next 10 years and helping its part-time workers move into full-time posts.
The move comes as Walmart tries to bolster its image. The company, often criticized for its low-paying jobs and buying habits in the U.S., has faced allegations that it made bribes in Mexico and calls for better safety oversight after a deadly fire at a Bangladesh factory that supplies its clothes. Walmart said its initiatives are unrelated to those events, but are meant to highlight that companies don't have to wait for lawmakers to fix the economy.
“The beauty of the private sector is that we don't have to win an election, convince Congress or pass a bill to do what we think is right,” Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart's U.S. business, said Tuesday. “We can simply move forward, doing what we know is right.”
Any changes Walmart makes to its hiring and buying practices garner attention due to the company's size. With $444 billion in annual revenue, if Walmart were a country, it would rank among the largest economies in the world. But critics say the changes amount to a drop in the bucket for Walmart, and they question whether the initiatives will have a major impact on the economy.
The centerpiece of Walmart's plan is a pledge to hire veterans. Walmart said it plans to hire every veteran who wants a job and has been honorably discharged in the first 12 months off active duty. The program will start on Memorial Day.