WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores pledged Tuesday to provide a job to any honorably discharged veteran starting this Memorial Day.
The retail giant expects to hire more than 100,000 veterans at its retail stores, clubs and distribution centers over the next five years through the initiative that was announced at a National Retail Federation event in New York City.
"Not every veteran wants to work in retail but every veteran that does will have a place to go," said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart’s namesake U.S. business.
Wal-Mart pledged to offer honorably discharged veterans a job within 12 months of their separation from active duty.
Simon, who served 25 years in the Navy and Navy Reserve, said retailers have a responsibility to create opportunities for veterans who served overseas to safeguard America. Moreover, he said returning soldiers are quick learners, team players and leaders with discipline, passion and training.
"We need that in our business and industry and our country today more than ever," he said.
Wal-Mart has a work force of about 1.3 million and routinely posts thousands of jobs each month.
Wal-Mart is working with the White House on the hiring initiative.
Simon also announced a new initiative to purchase goods manufactured in the United States. The company plans to purchase an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next decade.
The company has gathered a senior team of executives to lead the effort that will encourage manufacturers to invest in the United States. They expect the increases will come in textiles, furniture, pet supplies and higher-end appliances, Simon said.
Wal-Mart is encouraging other retailers to join them in the effort and will organize a summit this summer with state governors to try to accelerate the initiative. Simon said that the company has spoken to Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, as well as others who are enthusiastic about it.
"We can just do it. We don’t need any new studies," Simon said.
Wal-Mart recently signed a long-term purchasing agreement with 1888 Mills to stock its shelves with towels manufactured at an underutilized factory in Griffin, Ga.
"The factory is hiring again and operating again. Their towels will be in 600 stores this spring and another 600 stores this fall," Simon said.