BUSINESS

Robert Reich Trashes White House 'Numbskull' For Walmart Event

05/09/2014 10:50 am ET
Win McNamee via Getty Images

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich trashed the White House on Thursday for using Walmart, an enemy of unions and fair-pay advocates, as a poster company for a new climate-change campaign.

Reich, who served under President Bill Clinton, called Walmart one of the country’s “worst employers,” with “low wages, unreliable hours, few benefits, discrimination against women and anti-union” offenses.

“What numbskull in the White House arranged this?” wrote Reich, now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. "This" referred specifically to President Barack Obama's plan to visit a Walmart store in Mountain View, California, to tout the company's efforts at increasing energy efficiency.

And despite Walmart’s heavily-marketed efficiency push, the company has a growing carbon footprint and has been accused of “greenwashing” its image to seem more environmentally conscious than it is.

“Its greenhouse emissions grew 2 percent last year to nearly half a million metric tons, and it lags badly behind other large companies on renewable power,” Reich wrote.

Since 2005, when Walmart began its efficiency drive, its greenhouse-gas emissions have risen 14 percent, according to a November 2013 report from the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

And it ranked far below such retailers as McDonald’s, Whole Foods and Starbucks in green-power usage.

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The company, and the Walton family that owns it, in 2012 largely donated to political candidates with poor environmental platforms.

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“Walmart is failing on climate exactly like it is failing on worker’s rights,” Michael Marx, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign, said in a statement. “The company’s carbon pollution is up 14 percent while it pours millions of dollars into a misleading PR campaign around sustainability and anti-environmental public officials who obstruct solutions to climate disruption.”

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, told The Huffington Post that the company's levels of greenhouse-gas emission were on track to remain flat over the next decade and said Reich's comments were mostly false.

"He's certainly been on record talking about Walmart for a long time," Lunberg said of the former labor secretary in a phone interview on Friday. "There's very little in those comments that's accurate."

Here is Reich’s full Facebook post urging Obama to cancel a fundraiser with Walmart board member (and Yahoo CEO) Marissa Mayer, and to take this as an opportunity to shame Walmart for its labor practices:

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