At Walmart's Annual Shareholder Meeting, Workers, Activists, Shareholders Call for a Change of Course

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Zoe Bridges-Curry, 904-476-8681, zoe@berlinrosen.com
Lynsey Kryzwick, 646-200-5311, lynsey@berlinrosen.com
Derrick Plummer, 202.251.9459, dplummer@ufcw.org
Jamie Way, 202-256-9974, jway@ufcw.org

At Walmart's Annual Shareholder Meeting, Workers, Activists, Shareholders Call for a Change of Course

Associate Janet Sparks and Former Bangladeshi Garment Worker Kalpona Akter Present Resolutions to Keep the World’s Largest Company Accountable to Workers, Shareholders

Bentonville, AR - Striking workers believe in Walmart, but they - along with business analysts, economists, shareholders, and human rights activists - also believe the company must address deep-rooted issues affecting workers, customer service and sales, and they are raising their concerns at this year's shareholder meeting. After visiting home office to call for change earlier this week, calling on the Walton family to address income inequality and informing customers at more than 100 stores nationwide today, Walmart associate and OUR Walmart leader Janet Sparks and former Bangladeshi garment Worker Kalpona Akter presented resolutions in front of an arena of thousands of shareholders this morning.

Janet Sparks, who works at Walmart in Baker, LA, presented shareholder resolution #6 to tie the interests of Walmart executives to the interests of shareholders by requiring that senior executives hold on to a large portion of their shares until they reach retirement age.

“Most of the $20 million you received came from bonuses,” said Sparks, addressing Walmart CEO Mike Duke. “But at the store where I work associates have only received two quarterly bonus in the past five years and one was only $26.17. The bonuses you and I get are supposed to be tied to the performance of our stores and our company. But we all see the understaffing of our stores and the out of stocks that result. I think we can do better, and the first step is to remember what Sam Walton said: Listen to the Associates!”

Kalpona Akter, an internationally recognized sweatshop critic and former child garment worker, presented a resolution that would allow shareholders to call meetings as needed to respond to critical issues such as the recent tragedies at factories producing goods for Walmart in Bangladesh. Akter arrived in the United States Monday after hundreds of supporters raised funds to bring her to Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting to share her concerns with executives and shareholders.

“What happened at Rana Plaza and Tazreen should never have happened, and we can never let it happen again,” said Akter, the executive director of the Bangladeshi Center for Worker Solidarity. “Time and again, Walmart has broken its public commitments to workers throughout the supply chain. If the world’s largest retailer refuses to improve the state of workers’ rights and labor standards, things will not change.”

Despite Walmart workers’ struggle to support their families, plummeting customer service ratings and weak store sales due to understaffing, and preventable tragedies in the supply chain, Walmart has attempted to silence these voices through illegal retaliation, meritless lawsuits, and even firing workers. But support for workers’ calls for change has only grown since the historic Black Friday strikes and protests at 1,000 Walmart stores last fall. Last week, more than 100 Walmart workers went on strike and joined a nationwide caravan to Bentonville to speak out against Walmart's illegal retaliation directly to executives and shareholders—bravely taking a stand for themselves, their families, and their coworkers.

“Last year Wal-Mart enjoyed $16.9 billion in profits and paid $5.4 billion in dividends, of which nearly half went just to the Walton family,” said Dr. Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley. “Yet many of Wal-Mart's workers don’t earn enough to make ends meet; many must rely on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps. As the single largest employer of U.S. workers, Wal-Mart could easily take the high road with respect to its workforce.

“Wal-Mart is also the single largest employer worldwide—and as such, they along with other multi-national corporations hold the power to implement real change to address safety and work related issues concerning workers around the globe,” Allegretto said.

With community supporters echoing their calls nationally, members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart)—a national organization of Walmart associates speaking out for a stronger company and economy—have been calling on the nation’s largest private employer to publicly commit to creating better jobs. With more than $16 billion in annual profits and executives making 1,000 times more than the average Walmart employee, a growing number of associates and supporters nationwide are calling for the company to end retaliation against employees and publicly commit to providing full-time work with a minimum salary of $25,000 a year so workers don’t have to rely on tax-payer funded programs to support their families. A new report released by the Democratic staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce found that the costs to taxpayers at just one store as a result of Walmart’s inadequate wages and benefits is about $1 million.

For photos and video of strikers and their community supporters, visit http://changewalmart.tumblr.com. Or follow the conversation and see photos 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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