The media love a boogeyman—something or someone that provokes fear and anger in the public—and there are few more useful boogeymen then Walmart. This is especially true considering that progressives dominate the media, and progressives can’t stand Walmart: it’s a large corporation that stands as an impressive testament to the power and possibilities of the market economy. In other words, it’s everything that the Left hates.
So perhaps it’s understandable that the media would jump on a recent Walmart story with these kinds of headlines:
“Surprise! Walmart abruptly closes 5 stores, leaves 2200 employees without work”
“Why Wal-Mart fired 2200 people without warning”
“Wal-Mart Abruptly Fires 2200 People Without Warning In Massive Layoff”
“Walmart fired 2200 to fix the plumbing”
“Walmart Stores Close Suddenly, Leaving Hundreds Of Employees Jobless”
“Wal-Mart Stores, Inc Lays Off Over 2000 Workers To Fix ‘Plumbing Issues’”
“Wal-Mart Cuts 2200 Jobs To Fix ‘Plumbing Problems’”
Gee, that sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? Just from reading all these headlines, I get the sense that Walmart is a very bad corporation with no regard for its employees’ well-being. It’s almost as if the media want me to feel that way. Then again, a quick glance at CNNMoney’s reporting on the story reveals an interesting fact buried several paragraphs down:
Both full-time and part-time workers will be put on paid leave for two months, during which time they can try to transfer to a different Walmart location. Full-time employees who don’t get another Walmart job by June 19 may be eligible for severance, which part time workers aren’t eligible for.
Ah, okay. So it’s not simply that Walmart “left 2,200 employees without work,” or that it “fired 2,200 people” or that it “laid off more than 2,000 workers.” Instead, Walmart is paying its employees—full- and part-time employees, mind you—for eight weeks while they’re out of work, and offering them transfers to other locations. Full-time employees will also be eligible for severance pay.
That’s a pretty generous way to treat one’s employees. When you consider how impoverished humanity has been for the bulk of human history, it’s rather astounding that a corporation can afford to pay a couple thousand people for two months while they look for another job. It certainly seems newsworthy, or at least worthy of a headline.
But that doesn’t matter. “Walmart fires people!” looks a lot better as a headline than “Walmart offers more than 2,000 people paid leave for a couple of months.”
Not That Walmart’s Perfect
Now, there are some odd aspects to this whole debacle. The employees only found out they were going on paid leave just a couple of hours before the stores closed. This naturally upset many people. And Walmart has as of yet sought no permits for the alleged plumbing work that’s supposed to be responsible for the closures.
A few people suspect a corporate conspiracy; one location, for instance, has employees that have been “very active in protesting for higher pay,” so they believe Walmart shut their store down in retaliation. It would be rather bizarre, of course, for Walmart to respond to demands for higher pay by (a) closing a store for months and losing millions of dollars of revenue in the process, and (b) paying its employees while the store is closed. That being said, Walmart’s behavior is odd, and it would do well to explain itself as soon as possible.
Whatever the cause of these closures, however, it’s clear that the media is uninterested in reporting fairly on a corporation like Walmart. They’re more interested in throwing up clickbait headlines and reinforcing their own biases against big businesses. As a dedicated locavore foodie, there are a number of things I dislike about Walmart, and it’s certainly not my favorite place to shop. But just because you don’t like a place doesn’t mean you have to lie about it, or spread false impressions about how it treats its employees. Whatever one’s feelings about Walmart, it’s clear they’re giving their workers a good deal here. It’s a shame the media can’t be trusted to report honestly on the issue.