Walmart has been widely condemned for offering its employees only low-paying, dead end jobs. Even President Obama criticized Hillary Clinton during the 2008 presidential campaign for having served on Walmart's board and stated that the firm ought to pay "a living wage."
In inner-city Detroit, however, where the unemployment rate is estimated at an astonishing 50%, the prospect of a Walmart job may appear far more attractive.
Four inner-city Detroit high schools have decided that employment with Walmart is an opportunity worth training their students to pursue. The schools have teamed up with the giant merchandiser to offer a for-credit class in job-readiness training that also includes entry-level after-school jobs.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the principal at one of the schools optimistically suggested that "the program will allow students an opportunity to earn money and to be exposed to people from different cultures -- since all of the stores are in the suburbs."
The announcement of the program outraged Donna Stern, the Midwest coordinator for the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "They’re going to train students to be subservient workers" she told the Free Press. "This is not why parents send them to school."
Detroit area schools have cooperated on projects with Walmart in the past. Last summer, Walmart sponsored a letter-writing contest in which students could win classroom supplies, and at Christmas Walmart donated presents to needy students in a Detroit suburb.
Neither of those acts of corporate generosity, however, carried the same racial overtones as training inner-city students for a career as suburban Walmart store clerks. The fact may be that Detroit's schools are now desperate enough to accept help wherever they can find it.
The school district has been running badly in the red, and though emergency financial manager Robert Bobb has already closed 29 schools as a cost-cutting measure, it was reported this week that "the 84,000-student Detroit Public Schools could face additional layoffs and about 40 more school closings."
Detroit's teachers have also been chafing at a contract accepted by their union that forces them to make involuntary long-term loans to the school district out of their paychecks. A Detroit Federation of Teachers union meeting on Thursday broke down in chaos after members tried to put the question of recalling the union president on the agenda.