Obama's choice of Wal-Mart draws fire

President Obama's supporters generally like his energy program, but some don't like the location of his energy speech on Friday: A Wal-Mart in northern California.

"Wal-Mart is one of the nation's largest and worst employers – low wages, unreliable hours, few benefits, discrimination against women, and anti-union," said former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich in a Facebook posting.

In a post entitled "Department of Ill-Advised Photo Opportunities," Reich asked: "What numbskull in the White House arranged this?"

Pam Ramos, who has worked at Mountain View, Calif., Walmart for four years, said that "when I heard President Obama was visiting my store, I wanted to tell him what income inequality really looks like – right here working at a company that made $17 billion last year."

In an op-ed for Salon, Ramos said she brings home about $400 every two weeks, and "that's not enough to pay for bills, gas and food. All I can afford to eat for lunch is a cup of coffee and a bag of potato chips."

Wal-Mart says its wages and benefits are competitive in the retail industry.

White House officials said Walmart on Friday will commit to double the number of on-site solar energy projects at its U.S. facilities. Solar power, energy efficiency and renewable energy are topics of Obama's speech.

"The Wal-Mart commitment is a significant commitment, and that's one of the reasons the president is going to be there," said Dan Utech, special assistant to Obama for energy and climate change.


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