Lee Scott’s Regret: Not Promoting Retail Jobs
By Tom Ryan
Lee Scott, the former chief executive officer of Wal-Mart
Stores Inc., admits to one regret about his nine-year helm of the world’s
largest retailer: not doing enough to promote retail jobs.
Speaking at the CIES World Food Business Summit in New York
on Friday, Mr. Scott, now chairman of Wal-Mart’s executive committee, said
that since he first announced intentions to leave the CEO post in November
2008, people have often asked if there was anything he had wanted to accomplish
before his exit.
"The answer was, of course, one place I would have liked
to have done more is helping people understand that Wal-Mart jobs, retail
jobs in general, are good jobs," Mr. Scott said, according to a report
in Reuters. "They pay well and they offer extraordinary opportunities.
But the fact is, you just can’t do everything."
Mr. Scott’s comments were somewhat ironic given that employment
issues were one of his biggest headaches during his tenure. Labor groups
and politicians regularly accused Wal-Mart of mistreating employees, paying
low wages and not offering adequate health care coverage.
In the latter part of his term, Mr. Scott worked to counter
those critics. Under his leadership, Wal-Mart expanded the health care
plans it offered U.S. employees, and also joined a coalition of labor groups
and businesses pushing for
"quality, affordable" health insurance coverage for all Americans
by 2012. Ending years of legal battles around its treatment of workers, the
retailer in December said it would pay up to $640 million to settle 63 class
action lawsuits that accused it of wage violations.
Discussion Question: Is the industry
doing enough to promote retail jobs? How can retailers compete against
other industries more effectively for top talent?