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If Walmart Really Cares About Veterans, It Would Start Paying a Living Wage

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 11/11/2015 Kenney Ford
WALMART © ASSOCIATED PRESS WALMART

Every day, all across this nation, veterans who proudly served their country work hard to support themselves and their families. Unfortunately, what we have seen are too many companies that will talk proudly about their commitment to veterans, but don't match up their promises to their actions.

Consider the nation's largest retailer, our current employer, Walmart. This year, Walmart rolled out a program called "Greenlight a Vet," which is an initiative "to help create visible and actionable national support for America's veterans and their families," and goes hand-in-hand with Walmart's aim to hire 250,000 veterans by 2016.

Talk of national support is a wonderful thing, and so is giving jobs to veterans, but this is about providing good jobs, not just any job. Through our hard work and sacrifices we, and countless other workers in retail, deserve better wages, better benefits and the opportunity to earn a better life.

To be clear, Walmart is the nation's largest employer, and earned over $400 billion in profits last year. Yet Walmart workers, veterans or not, still struggle with low wages, no benefits and work schedules that make it impossible for them to control their own lives.
We believe that Walmart can and must do better.
Instead of announcing an awareness campaign and a broad goal of hiring veterans, Walmart should publicly commit to a specific goal of paying all their workers a living wage that reflects our hard work and appreciates the sacrifices we all make every single day.
More importantly, Walmart must address a corporate culture that contradicts the value it places on the men and women who served this nation.
For instance, in on our combined years of working at Walmart, we've seen and experienced many injustices. We've seen hard-working veterans like us work outside as cart pushers for years, with no opportunities to move into better positions. When working outside in the blistering heat, we've even seen managers not give workers on these shifts breaks for water or meals. We've also seen qualified veterans passed over for promotions again and again, while being lied to about the openings.
We've seen veterans struggle to work enough hours to support themselves and their families. Some of us were hired with the promise of working full-time jobs but are too often only scheduled to work four days a week. What this means is that we, and other Walmart workers, are never sure from week to week if we're going to be able to pay the bills each month.
The truth is that many of us were drawn to working at Walmart because we believed the company when they said they looked out for veterans. We thought there would be a chance to learn new skills and to move into new positions. We were hopeful that Walmart would be different than what critics so often accused them of. Yet, we've been told to our faces by store managers that full-time jobs weren't available, only to have them turn around and offer it to someone else.

Worst of all, we've seen veterans disrespected again and again in the workplace.
We know from firsthand accounts that our military service is never really acknowledged at Walmart, except sometimes with a sarcastic comment from a manager. Veterans working at a Clovis, NM, store were even denied the opportunity to wear red shirts in order to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Foundation, a cause that is close to the hearts of veterans and Americans everywhere.

To be honest, we're not asking for special treatment, just to be treated with respect and to have our hard work and service acknowledged. We're asking, on behalf of other veterans at Walmart -- and veterans all across the retail sector -- to be provided the opportunities we were promised, and to be given a chance to earn enough money to live on.

If there is one request we make to a nation we so proudly served, it's that this Veterans Day, as Walmart stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits thanks to hiring veterans, let them know that veterans deserve more than just a green light -- we deserve jobs we can be proud of.
Working together, we believe we can change Walmart for the better -- and that change begins today.

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