January 16, 2013
Just weeks after the tragic fire in a Bangladeshi factory producing apparel for Walmart, CEO Mike Duke visited New York to speak about sustainable growth and job creation where he was greeted by a coalition of labor and community groups outside the offices of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Bill Simon, CEO of Walmart U.S., was in New York to attend the National Retail Federation’s, the industry’s umbrella organization representing the nation’s biggest retailers, annual industry show at the Javits Center.
Labor and community groups were there to meet him as well to call on Walmart and the retail industry to replace inflexible and unpredictable work schedules with predictable hours.
Kimberly Ortiz of the Retail Action Group was one of several organizers who were in the audience to unveil a banner that read, “NRF, Stop Clocking out Workers, It’s Time for Good Jobs and Just Hours.”
John Cronan Jr., an organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York, used to work for a Darden-owned restaurant, the largest restaurant group in the U.S.
“When I called my boss to tell him I was sick, he told me to call someone to replace me. I had to spend my entire sick morning on the phone. No one I knew was available, so I had to go to work. This is not an aberration; this is the normal life of a restaurant worker,” said Cronan Jr.
Walter Arevalo used to work overnights in a Walmart in New Jersey. He said the uncertainty of his work schedule made it so difficult to make family arrangements.
“My schedule would always change at the last minute that I couldn’t arrange child care for my daughter or make plans. I’d show up to work, only to be told to go home. A supervisor would call me on my day off and ask why I wasn’t at work. I rarely knew the exact amount my paycheck would be because of the unpredictable scheduling,” said Arevalo.
Inside the Javits North Hall Simon gave the keynote address and said that the retail sector has to lead the effort to renew the country’s economy. He outlined three initiatives—adding more jobs in retail, providing job opportunities to veterans and supporting American manufacturing.
“Through our buying power, we can give manufacturers the confidence to invest capital here in the U.S. Therefore, we’re announcing today we’ll be buying $50 billion worth of U.S-made products over the next 10 years. We will grow U.S. manufacturing on two fronts—increasing what we’re already buying here, such as sporting goods and apparel basics, and expanding into higher-end appliances, textiles and furniture,” said Simon.
Simon also said that the retail industry has to do a better job in explaining the opportunities retail has to offer.
“There is a fundamental misunderstanding of retail. There’s nothing to be ashamed of an entry level job. Retail is the greatest engine of opportunity in the U.S. today.”