Michelle Obama and Walmart: A Match Made in PR Heaven

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Michele Obama WalmartWalmart's announcement that it will hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years has prompted a wide range of reactions, but no one was more positive than Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was effusive in her praise for the retailer, calling the commitment "historic" and saying that Walmart (WMT) was "setting a groundbreaking example for the private sector to follow."

Jobs for veterans has been one of the First Lady's signature issues: She and Jill Biden spearheaded the "Joining Forces" initiative to assist military families, and the White House claims the program is responsible for the hiring of 125,000 veterans and military spouses. So it makes sense that Michelle Obama would give her endorsement to Walmart's plan to guarantee jobs for recently-discharged veterans.

This, in fact, is the second time in as many years that Walmart has won glowing praise from the First Lady by with initiatives that are simpatico to her signature issues. In January 2011 the company announced it would make healthier food choices available in its stores. At the time, Walmart pointed to "Let's Move" -- Michelle Obama's push to encourage healthy eating habits and exercise among children -- as an inspiration for the action. When the announcement was made, with the First Lady in attendance, she called the plan "a victory for our children."

It's Not About Politics; It's About Popularity

The two represent something of an odd couple. Walmart and the Left have never been the best of friends, and the First Lady actually caught some flack from unions for her praise of Walmart's food initiative. But that didn't stop her from applauding Walmart this time around. If Walmart is going to help out on the First Lady's pet projects, then she's going to sing their praises.

And it stands to reason that this exactly what the company had in mind.

Anthony Bianco, a critic of Walmart and the author of "The Bully of Bentonville: How the High Cost of Everyday Low Prices Is Hurting America," says it's unlikely that the retailer is wooing Michelle Obama as a means of getting in the administration's good graces. But the First Lady's seal of approval does help Walmart with what Bianco sees as its main goal: Good PR.

"I see [the veteran initiative] almost purely as a PR play, and I think [Michelle] Obama's comments gave them the PR bonanza they were looking for," he says. "I don't see anything too nefarious here, but they got good PR by linking up with Michelle Obama, who's a very popular figure."

And some critics say that despite that wave of good press the announcement has drawn, Walmart's plan isn't the slam-dunk for veterans that it appears to be. Time magazine crunched the numbers and found that a goal of 20,000 veteran hires a year over the next five years only constitutes about 4.2% of the retailer's projected hiring. And AOL Jobs notes that the pledge to hire any veteran within 12 months of being honorably discharged only applies to those discharged after Memorial Day, which means that the nearly 1 million veterans who are currently unemployed aren't eligible for the guarantee.

That isn't to say that the pledge is a strictly cynical ploy by Walmart. It will certainly help many veterans who might have otherwise had trouble finding work. But the biggest beneficiary is likely to be Walmart's public image, which can always use a little buffing.

And having the president's wife on-board certainly doesn't hurt in that regard.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.



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Tom P Noonan

let get Walmart change into United Food And Commercial Workers Unionize Walmart Store for all Walmart Cashier Workers and for all Walmart Produce Workers and for all Walmart Deli Department Workers and for all Walmart Bakery Department Workers and for all Walmart Pharmacy Workers, let get Walmart change into Teamster Unionize Walmart Store for all Walmart and Sam’s Club Truck Driver Workers and for all Sam’s Club Forklift Driver@Stock Person Workers and for all Walmart Stock Person Workers and for all Sam’s Club Cashier Workers and for all Sam’s Club Meat Cutter@Meat Wripper Workers and for all Sam’s Club Produce Workers and for all Sam’s Club Deli Department Workers and for all Sam’s Club Bakery Department Workers and for all Walmart Customer Services Desk Workers and for all Sam’s Club Membership Desk Workers and for all Walmart Courtesy Association Workers and for all Sam’s Club Cart Attendance Workers and for all Walmart Maintenance Association Workers and for all Sam’s Club Maintenance Workers and for all Sam’s Club Pharmacy Workers, let get Walmart Change into Communication Workers of America Workers Unionize Walmart Store for all Walmart and Sam’ Electronics Workers, let get Walmart change into United Auto Workers Unionize Walmart Store for all Walmart Tire@Lube Express Workers and for all Sam’s Club Tire@Car Battery Installment Workers right of away and right now please by make Walmart give all Walmart Workers and all Sam’s Club Workers a Living Wage With Affordable Health Care Right of away and right now please without close down all the Walmart Store and without close down all the Sam’s Wholesale Club
Think You Very Much
From Tom P Noonan

February 16 2013 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jrb354

It seems strange that the administration, represented by Michelle Obama, would be so delighted to have men and women who have served their country rewarded by getting low wage, dead end jobs at a company that is notorious for costing every American higher taxes as we underwrite healthcare costs and other benefits not covered by Walmart. The first lady would do better to support jobs and higher education opportunities for all military veterans that would provide them with dignity and a healthy financial future., something a job at Walmart could never do.

February 16 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anthonygolfbones

Maybe a lot of people are feed up with Companys like walmart who try and screw their employe'es out of every penny they can so they can give huge bonuses to the CEO's which is mostly family. Walmart does everything in their power to keep full time employe'es to a minimum. It sometimes makes you wonder just how much money a person needs to enjoy a good life.

February 15 2013 at 6:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
chris1011

Thought for the day (some things never change):

"I never meant to say that the conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it. Suppose any party, in addition to whatever share it may possess of the ability of the community, has nearly the whole of its stupidity, the party must, by the law of its constitution, be the stupidest party and I do not see why honorable gentlemen should see that position at all offensive to them, for it insures their being always an extremely powerful party." John Stuart Mill, 1866

"The GOP needs to stop being stupid" Gov. Jindal, 2013

January 26 2013 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Linda C.

Love it...getting healthier...yeah right.what about the GMOs,high corn fructose and other garbage in our food supplies?How about about making 100% ORGANIC Food available to the average Joe for a healthier nation?OH!would that hurt Walmart?Love that they are so willing to give vetrans a job...sure.Get them out on the assembly line,give them minimum wage,no 15 minute breaks(anymore) half an hour lunch(maybe) and two weeks vacation for modern slavery.Wow!

January 22 2013 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Beverly

WALMART and MICHELLE OBAMA are a match made in heaven !!!!!!!!!!

The way Moochelle dresses, it looks like the rags that come off of Walmart's racks !

What is sad is also the way their children were dressed yesterday. This is January......WINTER and NOT Springtime where you bring out all the spring Easter colors. The girls happen to be adorable young ladies especially Malia who is truly coming into her own. They could have been dressed much better than what they wore.

But Michelle really was the spectacle with that coat pattern that looked like it belonged made into a tie for Barack O'Banana! Then when she stuck that hideous belt on the coat..........I am still wondering what it is she is trying to accomplish. Is she trying to hold up her breast from sagging or what? Then when watching the parade and she removed her coat, she had on some dress with the "infamous" Moochelle "shrug" added.

In all my years, I have NEVER seen a more classless First Lady than what we have now. She dresses hideous, walks like a truck driver and has about as much class as the "Honey Boo Boo Family"

In this age of technology, not only were most eyes from our country looking at them, but now we have the eyes of the world looking on and I am sure they too are commenting on how hideous she looked. I just hope they don't think this is how ALL Americans dress. It's bad enouigh that we have become a laughing stock of the world with our economy tanking like it did............supposedly the worlds greatest and most powerful country and we are broke and going further down the crapper.............well the way the O'Banana women were dressed.............we looked like we are in the crapper too !

God help us in the next 4 years. I guess the good part is that we know he is done when these 4 years are gone. I coulnd't think of a better "lame duck president" than Barack O'Banana!

January 22 2013 at 6:56 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Beverly's comment
poll100

People dress with the color of spring in their heart. These girls looked great.

January 22 2013 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
havnfaith

This is just to state that Walmart clothes are not "rags". Some people can only afford Walmart clothing. Even high end retailers like mall stores and dept stores have their clothing made in China, just like Walmart. However, there are some people in the USA that can never afford to purchase clothing from any mall, so please don't judge those that browse the clearance racks at Walmart. For some, even being able to buy something new is a luxury. So don't knock how the other half live and be thankful you have what you have.

February 16 2013 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HI CHARLIE

And now if she could only get her husband to use some of Walmart's meathods of being sucessful...

January 22 2013 at 6:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
coochiescooter

That mug could bee the next new Halloween mask

January 22 2013 at 3:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to coochiescooter's comment
billybuttlooker

CAN'T YOUR'S IS ALREADY THERE

January 22 2013 at 10:14 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
loyaltv

So that`s where queen O got her new hair,WalMart`s mannequin dept. A very Frugal Fanny`s

January 22 2013 at 12:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to loyaltv's comment
billybuttlooker

YOUR MAD CAUSE HER'S LOOKS BETTER THAN THAT MOP ON YOUR HEAD

January 22 2013 at 10:15 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
gghinmass

I like Mrs Obama but what she had on today looked like it came from Walmart.

January 22 2013 at 12:07 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply