Bangladeshi Sweatshop Critic to Join Calls for Change at Walmart Shareholder Meeting

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Lynsey Kryzwick, 646-200-5311, lynsey@berlinrosen.com
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Bangladeshi Sweatshop Critic to Join Calls for Change at Walmart Shareholder Meeting

As Walmart announcesanother false solution to protect workers in Bangladeshi factories, LeadingBangladeshi Sweatshop Critic to Arrive in Bentonville for Walmart’s Shareholder Meeting June 7

WASHINGTON - Kalpona Akter, a former garment worker from Bangladesh, will join striking Walmart workers and warehouse workers at the company’s annual meeting Friday, June 7 in Bentonville, Arkansas, to call for a change of course by top management.

Akter, who is the executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, is returning to U.S. for the second time this year after supporters raised thousands of dollars online to bring her to Bentonville for the shareholdermeeting. In April Akter toured the U.S. with Sumi Abedin, a survivor of theTazreen Fashions factoryfire that killed 112 people in November.

“Walmart and the other large retailers hold the key to ending senseless deaths in garment factories throughout the world,” Akter said. “Walmart must ensure good pay and safe working conditions for all workers in its supply chain from the factories to the warehouses to the stores.”

Akter began working in the Bangladesh garment industry at the age of 12, making just $3 a month. As a young woman working at a factory that made clothing for a big U.S. retailer, she helped lead a strike when the company refused to pay workers for all the hours they had worked. In November she provided photos to The New York Times demonstrating that Tazreen produced clothing for sale by Walmart despite the mega-retailer’s earlier denial that it had any connection to the factory.

At the end of her U.S. tour with Ms. Abedin, news broke of the Rana Plaza factory collapse. More than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives there.

“After Rana Plaza the conversation has changed and there is more attention than ever before on horrible labor conditions inside the factories that produce clothing formajor global brands like Walmart,” Akter said. “Unfortunately as other retailers start to take responsibility, Walmart and the Gap continue to turn a blind eye.”

Akter’s Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity is one of the labor or non-governmental organizations in Bangladesh, Europe and the United States that developed the Accord on Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety. More than 40 major brands, including Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, H&M, Benetton, Abercrombie & Fitch, and PVH (parent to Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger) have signed thisagreement, Walmart has refused. The company also has refused to contribute to a compensation fund for factory fire victims.

Akter will meethundreds of striking Walmart workers, members of the OrganizationUnited forRespect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), at the culmination of their week-long “Ride for Respect,” a caravan that has taken workers through nearly 30 cities, in Bentonville for the annual Walmart shareholder meeting. Workers are on strike to protest Walmart’s retaliation against them for speaking out for the company to do better.

Thanks to poverty wages and poor working conditions throughout its stores and supply chain, Walmart hauls in more than $16 billion in annual profits, and CEO Mike Dukemakes 1,000 times more than the average Walmart employee. Four Walton heirs are among the nine richest Americans listed by Forbes. Together, the Waltons have more wealth than 42% of the American public combined.

A growing number of workers and supporters are calling on the company to end retaliation against employees and to publicly commit to providing full-timework with a minimum salary of $25,000 a year so workers don’t have to rely on taxpayer-funded programs to support their families.

For photos and video of strikers and their community supporters, visit http://changewalmart.tumblr.com/ or follow the conversation on Twitter at #walmartstrikers

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OUR Walmart works to ensure that every Associate, regardless of his or her title, age, race, or sex, is respected at Walmart. We join together to offer strength and support in addressing the challenges that arise in our stores and our company everyday.

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