Back in 2013, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer announced with great fanfare a commitment to buy $50 Billion in Made in USA products by 2023. They predicted that this plan would create 1 million new U.S. jobs, with 250,000 in direct manufacturing and 750,000 in support and services. The company even released a “Policy Roadmap to Renew U.S. Manufacturing.”
It was an ironic move for a company that’s the poster-child of driving jobs overseas. The stories of Walmart pushing out countless mom and pop shops in communities are legendary. But Walmart is also the company that has tangled relationships with dubious suppliers. Like the time when hundreds of Cambodian soldiers stormed into a Walmart supplier threatening to shoot union representatives and workers if they didn’t stop protesting. Or that time a Chinese prisoner slipped a plea for help into a bag he made which was sold in an Arizona Walmart. Or how another Walmart supplier in Brazil was found to be using slave labor?
It’s no wonder that many questioned the company’s motives that it now cared about American jobs.
But if you look past Walmart’s motives, the only thing that matters is results, right? Well, it’s been over four years since Walmart announced it’s 10-year campaign. By pro-rating it, they should be 40% along in their goals of creating 250,000 direct jobs. That’s 100,000 new direct manufacturing jobs. So what does it’s midterm report card look like?
Not so great, actually. The first bad sign came when Walmart was investigated for falsely labeling over two hundreds items on its website over two months as Made in USA. Walmart addressed the issue by redesigning their Made in USA logos to better show that they were only kinda Made in USA. Oops.
And then there’s this: since announcing the campaign in 2013, Walmart has actually increased the number of containers it ships from China. Increased by 10 percent between 2013 and 2016.
So what about the few examples of work being brought back to the U.S.? The happily-ever-after stories turn out to be complicated. The only way manufacturers can make it in the USA given Walmart’s pressure to keep prices low is to automate as many processes as it can: that means more robots are getting jobs than people.
So what’s the bottom line on the real, human jobs Walmart has created? Walmart won’t disclose these figures, but if you add up the jobs created in their press releases, it amounts to a few thousand – well shy of the 100,000 they should have created in the four years into their 10 year campaign. In 2015, the Reshoring Initiative estimated that Walmart created 4,748 jobs (note: they no longer track how many jobs are created).
So there’s six years left and a pretty tall order, Walmart. Time to start creating jobs, real jobs. Not just the jobs for PR flaks or the consultants you have on deck. But real jobs for Americans who deserve economic security.