Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, has a new ad campaign promising bold measures to promote good jobs in America. This would be exciting news for all of us – if only there were some substance to it.
Many Americans remember a similar announcement in the 1990s. Then, too, Wal-Mart spent heavily on “Buy American” ads, proclaiming its commitment to U.S. manufacturing. That campaign fizzled after NBC’s “Dateline” showed rack after rack of clothing made in China, Malaysia and Bangladesh on display under Wal-Mart’s “Made in the USA” signs. Now, Walmart claims that it will spend up to $50 billion per year more on U.S. products by the year 2022. According to an ad featuring TV’s “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe, this supposedly new commitment will help American workers “build families” and “build dreams.” Faced with a firestorm of skepticism, Rowe said in a CNN interview that viewers need to understand that “this whole thing is about P.R.” How true, unfortunately. At best, the program is a drop in the bucket for a company that is actually the leading obstacle to the American dream for working families.
For years, Walmart has been the dominant driver of corporate outsourcing. A study of the company’s impact over a five-year period found that its imports from China alone led to the elimination of 133,000 American jobs. Walmart has forced many U.S. firms, from Levi’s jeans to Master Lock, to move manufacturing overseas in order to maintain their status as Walmart suppliers. In the book “The Retail Revolution,” a spokesman for the National Knitwear and Sportswear Association explained that Walmart “forces domestic manufacturers to compete, often unrealistically, with foreign suppliers who pay their help pennies an hour.”
Even if Walmart’s new promises turn out to be true, they don’t represent a fundamental shift in the company’s outsourcing model. The “additional” spending may largely be a result of Walmart’s normal projected growth in U.S. purchases over the next 10-year period, and at most would represent six percent of its costs.
Portions of this article from Huffingtonpost.com