business news in context, analysis with attitude

Walmart said yesterday that it will be awarding $2 billion in bonuses, profit sharing and discounts to its hourly workers, a continuation of a program begun by former CEO Lee Scott. In announcing the new bonuses, the new CEO, Mike Duke, told employees, “I believe the key to our success was how associates in every area of our company came together around our shared purpose.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The financial incentives for hourly workers include $933.6 million in bonuses that the retailer is handing out Thursday. There is another $788.8 million in profit sharing and 401(k) contributions, and hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise discounts and contributions to the employees' stock purchase plan.”

The bonus averages $933.60 for each qualified hourly employee.

In his memo, Duke wrote, "Now we need to accelerate and broaden all of our efforts. We have a vision for where we want to take Wal-Mart. Our strategy is working and we're building momentum. As we move with a new sense of urgency and with every associate participating, we will make our business even stronger."

The announcement of the bonuses being given to hourly employees came as the nation has virtually erupted in outrage over $160 million in bonuses paid by AIG to executives, including those who had worked in parts of the company’s business that contributed to a financial collapse that caused the federal government to invest $170 billion to bailout AIG.

KC's View:
Listen, Walmart is not without blemishes. But there is much to admire about the company, especially at a time when the spotlight is on so much corporate excess in the United States.

Some execs spend millions redecorating their offices, and millions more to feather the already plush nests of senior execs. Walmart forces people to share rooms when on the road, famously decorates some of its offices with store-bought lawn furniture, and distributes billions in bonus money to hourly workers who are being hard-hit by the recession.

I still think that Lee Scott ought to be on the short list for some job in the Obama administration. (Though probably not in the Department of Labor.) He’d bring instant credibility and a track record.