It turns out Walmart and Tom Cruise have something in common. They both turned 50 this week. And the odd pairing share something else: Both quinquagenarians have set a lot of tongues wagging.
Cruise, of course, set the gossip world aflame in the summer heat for the announced split with his wife of five and a half years, Katie Holmes. Walmart, on the other hand, had a problem that affected a lot more people: some very unhappy folks who want the retailing powerhouse to treat their workers better and be more considerate to small businesses and not steamroll into new neighborhoods.
As the retail giant tried to rouse enthusiasm for its 50th anniversary celebrations, including making it the theme of its annual shareholders meeting in June (that's chairman Rob Walton on-stage, at top; Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Celine Dion and Lionel Richie also took the stage, while President Bill Clinton contributed a congratulatory video), rallies across the U.S. have been calling for Walmart to unionize its workers and reconsider how it goes about moving into new communities.
Walmart employees and activists in Chicago tried to give a store manager a card and cupcakes but were denied. New York City had “guestworkers at Walmart supplier C.J.’s Seafood (holding a) a 24-hour fast Saturday in front of Walmart board member Michelle Burns' apartment,” Huffington Post reports. And activists in other stores went to Walmarts and gathered “signatures for an anniversary e-card outlining demands for Walmart to change its business practices.”
While folks in Arkansas, where Walmart was founded, celebrated with balloons and cake, folks in L.A. were getting steamed about Walmart’s planned construction in historic Chinatown. The LA City Council voted unanimously in March to keep big chain retail stores out of Chinatown, HuffPost notes, but Walmart had outsmarted and gotten all the proper paperwork signed off on the night before the vote. Angry probably isn’t a strong enough word to describe those who oppose the construction, and they’ll surely be out in force at a July 12 City Planning public meeting on the subject.
All along the rally’s parade route in L.A. last weekend, there was a lot of anti-Walmart sentiment pouring forth from the small businesses and the sidewalks. For a company known for its greeters, it’s having a hard time finding any welcoming arms these days. Retail rival Target, by the way, is also celebrating its 50th this year.
Below, Walmart's first store in Rogers, Arkansas — it now boasts more than 10,000 stores — and a video overview of the store's logo through the years: