Walmart issued a press release yesterday to say it’s on track to promote 160K workers this year, including 25K of them by the end of the year. On Nov. 18, it held town hall meetings in Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix to trumpet on-the-spot promotions for 350 people.

walmartThere’s more than a whiff of PR desperation to Walmart’s promotion binge. Walmart’s PR has fallen flat.

The National Labor Relations Board has warned Walmart that it is ready to side with disgruntled workers who claim the retailer violated their right to protest. The board says it found merit in complaints that Walmart unlawfully threatened, disciplined, or terminated workers in 13 states from participating in legally protected strikes and protests, according to today’s Wall Street Journal. Those workers have griped about low wages, long hours and lousy working conditions.

Walmart believes its workers are a happy bunch and is committed to defending itself against any NLRB actions. It apparently believes it can quell employee backlash against the decision to open two hours earlier on Thanksgiving Day (6 p.m.) by offering workers holiday pay, 25 discount on Thanksgiving basket and a hot meal.  Wal-Mart execs should get out of their bunker in Bentonville and get out into the real world.

A trip to Canton, Ohio, would be an eye-opener for the top brass. The Atlantic Boulevard Walmart is collecting food for the needy. Sounds admirable, right? Wrong!  A sign by the storage bin collection table reads: “Please Donate Food Items Here so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Day,” according to a widely distributed report in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.

Kory Lundberg, Walmart spokesperson, gave it the old PR try, saying the baskets are proof that workers care about those facing extreme hardships, such as loss of a spouse. 

He claims the average Walmart full-time worker earns $25K a year. The Our Walmart activist group puts the average wage at $15K to $20K. At that level, those storage containers better be overflowing by Thanksgiving.

Walmart’s PR unit will face a tough Christmas shopping season. It doesn’t have to be. If it offered workers a “fair deal” and a just wage for 1.3M “associates,”  Walmart could be a national role model, instead of a corporate Scrooge.