We’re happy for the folks who received promotions—but everyone knows it’s a PR stunt, right? OK, cool. (And also: Duh.) There’s zero other way to interpret the company pulling out all the stops to turn promotions—of which Walmart reportedly makes hundreds per day—into splashy, made-for-TV ceremonial events. A lot of the news coverage of the promotions even identified the effort as a stunt.
Why pull this stunt now? At his appearance in Secaucus, NJ, Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon told reporters, “It’s good a time as any to tell our story,” as if executives decided to fan out across the country for photo ops just for kicks. Actually, the timing was no accident: With Black Friday worker and community protests expected to be larger this year, members of Congress publicly criticizing Walmart’s low wages, and a recent raft of bad press about ill-advised firings, Walmart was in desperate need of a good story about its labor practices. Hence the colossal PR effort.
It’s rather telling that Walmart, which notoriously will not disclose specifics on pay rates or how many associates don’t get full-time hours, is working so hard to tell a good story about its jobs. That suggests that, whether Walmart brass and flacks like it or not, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart is having an impact. Walmart can’t not respond to OUR Walmart.