Though six years ago he pledged never shop in one, President Barack Obama became the first commander in chief to visit a Wal-Mart on May 9, using a store in Mountain View, California, to launch a ramped-up renewable energy initiative.
“More and more companies like Wal-Mart are realizing that wasting less energy isn’t just good for the planet; it’s good for business; it’s good for the bottom line,” said Obama.
During his speech, Obama highlighted his initiative, enacted by an executive action, spurring investment and training in the solar energy industry, improving the energy-efficiency in homes and businesses, and forging new relationships between government and the technological and housing industries.
Obama also unveiled recently how the White House had finally gone green by installing an array of solar panels on the roof.
By why choose Wal-Mart as the setting? “This may look like a typical Walmart,” Obama explained, “but it’s not. And that’s why I’m here.”
The Mountain View Wal-Mart operates with green refrigerating systems, fully LED lights and under a full array of solar panels.
“At Wal-Mart, you’ve committed to reducing energy consumption across 850 million square feet of space,” Obama said. “That’s a lot. That’s enough to cover more than half of the city of San Francisco. Taken together, this is going to make a difference. And it’s the right thing to do for the planet, but it’s also the right thing to do for the bottom line, because when you save that money you can pass that money back to consumers in the form of lower prices or you can use it to create more jobs.”
After Obama’s speech, labor groups expressed unfailing opposition to the president’s apparent support of the mega-retailer, which has become the poster child for labor malfeasance and union busting.
Joe Hansen, international president for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, told the Los Angeles Times that it is “a terrible message” for Obama to “stand side by side with a company known for low wages, few benefits, unreliable hours, discrimination against women, violating workers’ rights, and yes, environmental degradation.”
Former President Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor, Robert Reich, wondered on his Facebook page, “What numbskull in the White house arranged this?” He added that the event should be categorized in the “Department of ill-advised photo opportunities” file.
Obama’s official reaction to the reaction came through spokesman Kory Lungberg, who said that Obama continues to be for both fair wages and energy efficiency: “I didn’t hear anything of a mixed message today. Our focus was about having the president in the store to talk about this important issue.”
As for Wal-Mart, its spokesman said the company is used to labor unions that “make a lot of noise and draw attention to themselves.” The company announced at Obama’s appearance that it would be doubling the amount of renewable energy measures in its stores, which of course proves that doing so is a wise move.
[Image Via Bing]