For a company like Walmart that prides itself on serving as many communities as possible, it is never an easy decision to close a store. Despite the recent news, we remain as committed as ever to providing thousands of good jobs and affordable shopping options in Alaska. This is why I find it necessary to correct the facts in a recent op-ed submitted by Jess Levin, the Washington, DC-based Communications Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents some of our competitors.
Our commitment to Alaska is reflected in our continuing investment in our associates. No other company in the changing world of retail offers as wide a range of jobs, as much room for advancement, as much ability to be trained, mentored, receive education benefits, and participate in growth — in terms of bonuses and 401k — than Walmart.
Our associates drive Walmart’s success each and every day, and we are committed to helping them build careers. We are investing $2.7 billion over two years in our workforce in higher pay, skills training, education and clearer career paths. We know the combination of pay and skills training, education and hard work is what transforms people’s lives and helps them advance. We’re proud to offer our associates both an increase in wages and the training and opportunity they need to get ahead.
Along with higher pay, associates are receiving a number of expanded benefits, including short-term disability at no cost to full-time hourly associates, to ensure financial protection in the event of an illness or injury, and a new paid time off program to give our people more control over their time off.
All of this is part of our ongoing initiative to provide clarity in the career opportunities available to our associate. Last year, Walmart promoted nearly 200,000 people to higher-paying jobs — that’s nearly 540 people a day. They can go as fast and far as their hard work and talents take them. In fact, more than 75 percent of our store management teams across the country started as hourly associates.
Of course, we know that store closures are difficult for any associate affected by these tough decisions, and in Juneau perhaps more so because of its geographic location. I want you to know that we are making sure everyone is treated fairly and with respect throughout the process. We met with our Juneau associates individually and in small groups to better understand their individual interest in continuing employment with Walmart, to explain the transfer process, and also answer questions about their options, including severance.
While some of the Juneau associates are excited about new opportunities at other Walmarts in Alaska and the Lower 48, for others a transfer is not an option they want to explore. It’s a personal decision each associate must make. We are making sure our associates have the information they need to make informed decisions about their future and are holding workshops for resume writing and interviewing skills to help prepare them for their next employment opportunity at Walmart or elsewhere.
In today’s changing world, it is more important than ever for Walmart to take a hard look at its global operations to make sure all of our stores can operate in line with the high standards we have set for ourselves and that our customers expect. While this has led us to refocus some of our efforts here in Alaska, we are as committed as ever to being a good corporate neighbor in the communities we serve.
• Angela Wilson is a regional general manager for Walmart. Her area includes Alaska.