Obama's decision to stage his much-touted energy speech Friday at a northern California store of Walmart—one of the most notorious purveyors of wealth inequalities, union-busting, and "greenwashing" in the country—was met with hundreds of protesters from labor and environmental organizations.
Over 30 civil rights, environmental, and labor groups released a statement blasting the choice of venue by a president who has vowed to tackle wealth inequalities and climate change.
“It’s hard to understand why President Obama, who has stated that inequality is the ‘defining issue of our time’ and stressed the need to tackle climate change, has decided to visit Walmart—a company known for paying low wages and doing little to address its poor environmental record," they declared.
Obama took the occasion to praise Walmart for its supposed renewable energy track record and touted his own administration's commitment to solar power.
Yet protesters at the Mountain View, California Walmart say the speech was more empty rhetoric from a president who can't tell talk from action.
Green groups have slammed Walmart as a "greenwasher" more concerned with improving its image and turning a profit than implementing real sustainable practices.
A mere 3 percent of Walmart’s power comes from wind and solar energy, and its use of renewable power in the past two years has dropped nearly 25 percent, according to environmental groups, according to OUR Walmart.
Last month, Walmart was named 2014 Greenwasher of the Year by the Green Life Online award for its big talk but poor track record on environmentally sustainable practices.
Furthermore, workers slammed the Walton family for hoarding wealth—at more than $148 billion combined—while most Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year, with many of them forced to depend on public programs like food stamps.
“When I heard President Obama was visiting my store, I wanted to tell him what income inequality really looks like—right here working at the country’s largest employer,” said Pam Ramos a Mountain View Walmart worker. “I bring home $400 every two weeks. That isn’t enough to cover the bills, and all I can afford to eat for lunch is a cup of coffee and a bag of potato chips."
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