Walmart Never Pays Top Entertainers To Perform For Its Annual Shareholder Event

August 13, 2013  |  

Patti LaBelle, here performing at the Apollo, has performed for Walmart. C.Smith/ WENN.com

The debate over whether or not Walmart adequately pays its employees still lingers, but get this—Walmart doesn’t even pay its celebrity entertainers to perform for their annual shareholder meeting which has thousands of cheering employees and board members in attendance, reports TheGrio.

Singing legends such as Smokey Robinson, Patti Labelle, Lionel Ritchie and the “Grown Woman” herself, Beyonce Knowles, have all performed for Walmart—for free. “We do not pay performance fees for celebrity guests,” Diana Gee, a Walmart spokeswoman told MSNBC. However, the company does offer coverage for hotel and travel expenses.

Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world with associates from China, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Japan, India, Africa, and Canada. It’s a symbol of where everybody in America shops, Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, professor at Duke University, told TheGrio. Just performing for such an influential and powerful retailer, TheGrio suggests, is adequate payment for these top-notch celebrities because of its exposure.

“When you consider yourself a brand, it is a smart partnership for you to align yourself with one of the biggest consumer retailers in the world,” said Marvet Britto, CEO of The Britto Agency.

“Every entertainer that is here has something to do with our business,” Gee continued. “There’s a connection from the business, whether it’s CDs, books, or t-shirts.” A symbiotic business relationship is formed — talents receive exposure for their latest projects and Walmart draws in publicity for its star-studded event where celebrities gushing about the retailer.

In the June 2013 meeting, Jennifer Hudson and John Legend stopped by to perform crowd-favorites while Tom Cruise delivered a speech about “how the company is using its size and scale to improve women’s lives around the world.” The host, Justin Timberlake, said, “Walmart’s awesome and everything actually does cost less!”

Wait a minute now, Justin. You haven’t worked a day in your life at Walmart. Are we just going to ignore the fact that Walmart workers have been protesting over poor working conditions and poverty-level wages? “[W]hat they said on stage didn’t really represent many of the workers, and it’s unfortunate that celebrity appearances can overshadow some of the very real issues that everyday people,” said Tsehai Almaz, a Walmart employee.

While employees complain that the celebrity performers are out of touch with the underlying issues plaguing Walmart, singers and entertainers are guaranteed a spot on Walmart’s shelves — retail space that symbolizes economic power — in exchange for a free appearance at their shareholder’s meeting. Not a bad exchange.

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