Walmart announced via the “I Am a Factory” commercial that it will spend an additional $250 billion over the next 10 years on American-made goods. “At Walmart, we believe in making a difference on the issues our customers and communities care about,” the company’swebpage that outlines the effort explains. “We believe we can create more American jobs by supporting more American manufacturing. Jump-starting the manufacturing industry and rebuilding the middle class requires a national effort by companies, industry leaders, lawmakers and others.” (See the video below.)
The quarter-trillion dollars will be spent on increasing the amount of U.S.-manufactured goods the company already buys, bringing in “new to Walmart” items made in the U.S.A., and facilitating and accelerating the efforts of its suppliers to bring manufacturing to the United States.
Walmart’s commitment to American-made goods is likely to help provide a boost for the American workforce, which is mostly nonwhite and non-male. Blacks and Latinos currently have the highest unemployment rate in the country, but they hold nearly one third of all production, transportation and material-moving jobs.
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But Mike Rowe, the host of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs and the voice behind several successful shows, has had to push back against criticism and death threats for taking part in the ads. “Three days of press, five hours of sleep, four bottles of wine, a speech, a job offer, 5,000 form letters, and a couple of good-natured death threats,” he said in theopening of a recent Facebook post. “All because of a commercial that I narrated about American manufacturing paid for by Walmart. Press tours are fun!”
Rowe’s foundation has received thousands of protest letters—and death threats—from critics who say he needs to be more concerned with the working conditions for its current employees. In his Facebook post, Rowe addressed those concerns in a message directed at Ori Korin of Jobs With Justice, pointing out the strength and need for manufacturing, construction and healthcare jobs—all of which are being created by Walmart’s initiative.
“I care about the people you represent. That’s precisely why I set up a foundation and some scholarship funds. I’m trying to encourage hardworking people who are unhappy in their jobs to make a meaningful change in their life. A lasting change. And I believe this change is most likely to occur when people are willing to learn a skill that’s in demand. Happily, worthwhile opportunities are everywhere. Our country has a massive skills gap, and the chance to retool and retrain has never been better,” Rowe wrote, referring to the protest letters as “a bag of dog crap set ablaze on my front porch.”
“Think about it, Ori. Many of the workers you represent have jobs that could very well become obsolete in just a few years. Automation, technology, automatic checkouts … the writing is on the wall. But the skilled trades are different. Welders, auto technicians, carpenters, masons, construction workers, healthcare … these opportunities are real, and the rewards go far beyond the minimum wage—whatever that might turn out to be. Walmart may have cornered the market on retail jobs, but the world’s a lot bigger than Walmart.”
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