The country's largest private employer is in the spotlight. As Walmart gears up for Black Friday sales, it's had a busy week, starting with the announcement Monday of its new CEO; the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail behemoth has tapped Doug McMillon as its new leader. McMillon previously held the position of CEO for Walmart International, which includes some 800,000 workers. Factoring in American stores, there are about 2.2 million Walmart workers worldwide.
The 47-year old McMillon replaces Mike Duke, who's stepping down on Feb. 1 at the age of 63. Duke's final annual salary last year was $1.3 million, which was topped off with another $19 million in stock and other awards, according to the New York Times. Duke's exit had been predicted by analysts. He took over the top post in 2009. But his tenure was marred by a New York Times report last year that uncovered a bribery scheme in Mexico to gain favors.
Analysts welcomed the news of McMillon's ascendancy as proof the Walmart ship will stay on course, in spite of rising competition from global competitors. "He's a Walmart guy from Arkansas, so I would be shocked to see dramatic changes in how the company is run," Faye Landes, an analyst at Cowen & Co, told USA Today. "He's not a person who is going to shake things up."
One issue McMillon will have to contend with is labor protests against Walmart. As was reported by the Nation, some 1,500 Walmart stores are being targeted for strikes this Friday, the Black Friday holiday sales day. The activism is being organized by the non-union group OUR Walmart. And as AOL Jobs reported, the activism is a continuation of the ongoing campaign being organized by and on behalf of Walmart workers. Activists are calling for a minimum salary of $25,000 for Walmart workers, in addition to greater opportunities for full-time work, among other demands.
The last big day of action against Walmart occurred in September when stores in 15 cities were targeted for strikes. Organizers said thousands of workers and activists took part in the protests that day, as AOL Jobs reported. Three protesters -- one current Walmart worker, two former workers -- were arrested on charges of trespassing on Walmart property; the protesters tried to hand-deliver a petition to Walmart board member Christopher Williams in New York City.
Walmart has already asked judges to bar protesters from entering stores Friday in Maryland and Florida, as the Nation reported. Protests are also being planned for stores in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Washington (DC), Minneapolis and Sacramento.
But not every Walmart worker is so unhappy. Just this week, AOL Jobs profiled a Walmart greeter in New Jersey, 72-year old Thirumangalakudi "Venke" Venkatraman, as part of the "What It's Like" series that profiles America's workers. "Venke," who has worked eight years for Walmart, chooses to work part-time, in part because he wanted to complete an MBA with the online University of Phoenix. He currently makes $12.14 an hour and collects Social Security.
"If an associate wants to be dissatisfied then the associate can be dissatisfied on the very first day at Walmart," he said. "But if you want to try, there's quite a lot of things that can be done."