If Walmart really wants to improve its public image, says Derrick Plummer, a spokesman for the organization Making Change at Walmart, it could start with a simple step, one that’s admittedly more expensive than a few million bucks on an ad campaign: pay workers more. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union claims that the company’s workers make less than $9 an hour, on average—a number Lundberg won’t confirm—and that half of the company’s workers bring home less than $22,400 a year, putting them below the federal poverty line.

Walmart’s Goodwill Tour: We Love Our Workers and America, Too

Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg would have you believe that the $3 million ad campaign that has been popping up on Hulu and elsewhere lately has nothing to do with last November’s Black Friday protests against the company’s treatment of workers, allegations of bribery in Mexico to circumvent zoning laws, or controversy over factory conditions in places like Bangladesh.

A still from Walmart’s “The Real Walmart” campaign. (Walmart, via YouTube)

Just a coincidence, then, that the world’s largest retailer is launching a public-relations blitz centered around “The Real Walmart,” which on the surface seems like a direct rebuttal to the company’s critics, who accuse the company of blighting the communities its stores occupy and mistreating its workers. The only explicit reference to haters is a nod to “a website that makes fun of people who shop with us,” to which the company replies that the people who shop at Walmart are America, that’s who. Beyond that, though, Lundberg says, the campaign isn’t a response to anything in particular.

“We look at it as just a natural extension of telling the Walmart story,” Lundberg said. “The more people understand Walmart, the more they trust us.”

If the campaign is a coincidence, it’s well-timed. Walmart continues to struggle to shake its image (among some consumers) as a Big Corporate Bad Guy, and The Real Walmart’s ads seem squarely aimed at helping you view that big yellow smiley face in a whole new light.

Thought the company treated workers poorly? The Real Walmart offers pay “at or above” the industry average, plus benefits, maternity and paternity leave, and a 401(k) plan.

Walmart wrecks communities? “Walmart only succeeds when the communities thrive,” says The Real Walmart. “Across the United States, we have opened 86 new stores in underserved communities bringing hundreds of new jobs.”

Walmart loves veterans. Beginning on Memorial Day, the company started making good on a promise to hire any dishonorably discharged veteran in America—2,000 to date.

Look, even Bill Clinton likes us!

“Walmart has deployed more photovoltaics on their buildings than any other company in America,” Clinton said last September on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. “They are the No. 1 solar company in America now. And they also run some of their buildings with wind energy. And they also have cut their packaging …”

But if the ads do an effective job of putting a different shine on the company that has for some become a symbol of American excess and corporate greed, what they don’t do is make any promises, or announce any real change, notes Zev Eigen, a law professor at the Northwestern University School of Law who specializes in labor issues. It’s all lipstick-on-a-pig stuff, as far as he’s concerned.

Article continues two plus pages, click here:http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/06/29/walmart-s-goodwill-tour-we-love-our-workers-and-america-too.html

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