MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Our nation's veterans face a higher unemployment rate than non-veterans. Now, Walmart is hoping to change that. But critics say it's all a public relations stunt.
Walmart Stores said on Tuesday, January 15th that, over the next five years, it will hire every veteran who honorably left the military in the last year.
More than 100,000 people are expected to find work through the program, making it one of the largest hiring commitments for veterans on record, the nation's largest retailer said.
Latoya Davis says one Milwaukee Walmart has "now hiring" signs up year-round. She believes the retailer only hires inexperienced people who will work for low wages.
"It seems like they'll hire an 18-year-old before they will a 28-year-old," said Davis.
Davis finds it hard to believe Walmart would be rolling out the red carpet for veterans.
"They're not going to hire anybody. They're not going to hire vets. I don't feel they will," said Davis.
Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. said in a speech Tuesday, that the retailer was already the largest private employer of veterans in the country, even before this new push. About 100,000 of the company's 1.4 million employees in the U.S. are veterans, a Walmart spokesman said.
The Walmart program is set to kick off on Memorial Day. Most of the jobs will be in Walmart stores and clubs, but some will be in its distribution centers and its Bentonville, Ark., home office. Simon said that veterans will be held to the same basic hiring criteria as everyone else.
Azael Brodhead and the Center for Veterans Issues works with unemployed veterans on a daily basis. He acknowledges entry-level jobs at Walmart may not necessarily be high-paying positions. But Brodhead argues, any employment leads to opportunity.
"That's the number one goal for soldiers returning home, service members returning home is getting a job," said Brodhead.
First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Joining Forces initiative focuses on hiring or training unemployed veterans and military spouses, called Walmart's plan a "concrete example" of our nation's support for our veterans. She challenged every business in the country to follow Walmart's lead.