From the Heart of Bernie Sanders Country, a Walmart Associate Shares Her Story

Walmart Store Manager BJ Clay

June 5, 2019
By BJ Clay, Manager Store #2289

Even in Bernie Sanders’ backyard, a lot of people rely on Walmart. They work there, they shop there. The store donates to nonprofits and other organizations in the area. It’s part of the fabric of the community.

I should know. I run the Supercenter in Bennington, Vermont.

Eighteen years ago, when I started working the overnight shift at a Walmart store a few hours away, I could never have imagined where my journey with the company would lead. I’d just tagged along with a friend to a hiring fair. We were both broke teens, looking for a short-term job to earn a little pocket money.

After a while, I became a cashier, then a shelf stocker, then a department manager. Chances to learn and gain new experiences seemed to pop up everywhere. My assistant manager at the time, Bill Pence, made a point of teaching me about the business of retail. It was he who helped me realize that my short-term, pocket-money job could turn into an actual career, one full of challenge and growth and opportunity.

One that could support my family.

I decided to pursue becoming an assistant manager. I remember sitting down with my market manager to interview. By this time, I was in my early twenties. “You can do anything with this company,” he said. “You can run your own store.” I’ll never forget that conversation. I got the job.

Later, after four years as a co-manager, I heard about a store manager opening in Vermont. I talked to my boss about it and the response was immediate: “You’re ready. Go for it.”

My career with Walmart has been sprinkled with short and sweet interactions like this. I’ve always had mentors who led with transparency and helped set me up for success. I’ve always felt well-supported by Walmart.

But that support goes beyond what happens at work. I’m a mother of five children, and my youngest is seven months old. I’m so thankful for Walmart’s maternity benefits. I took 16 weeks when my youngest daughter Blair was born. I don’t know another company that would allow you to spend that much time bonding with your child. And even now that I’m back, there’s still enough PTO and flexibility that I can be there when my kids need me.

I love my job with Walmart and I love what Walmart means to our community in Bennington. When we opened the new Supercenter in 2016, we doubled the number of jobs our store could provide in the area. That’s why I’m puzzled by how Senator Sanders characterizes us. I don’t really get into politics, but what I hear him say couldn’t be further from my experience.

Perhaps someday he’ll visit my store in Bennington, and I’ll get a chance to introduce him to the Walmart I know.