FAYETTEVILLE, Ark.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Following two weeks of protests in cities across the country, leaders of the group OUR Walmart from all over the U.S. descended on Fayetteville, Ark., today for the company’s annual shareholder meeting. In addition to reiterating their call for $15 an hour and access to full-time hours for all associates, worker shareholders proposed two resolutions intended to rein in executive compensation and incentivize sustainable investment, such as fair wages and benefits for workers.
At today’s meeting, Walmart worker shareholders proposed a new policy establishing an independent chairperson for Walmart’s Board of Directors. The current Chair is Rob Walton, leader of the family that controls more than half the outstanding shares of the company.
Venanzi Luna, a member of OUR Walmart, has worked for Walmart in Pico Rivera, Calif., for eight years. Her store was the first Walmart store to strike in 2012, and one of five stores the company abruptly closed in April, claiming “plumbing issues.” More than 2,000 workers were laid off following these sudden closures. “Mr. Rob Walton, the current non-independent chair of the board, is the most powerful person at our company. The buck stops with him,” Luna said at the meeting today. “He could stop these layoffs. He could stop the retaliation. He could stop this company from repeatedly breaking the law. But he has not. That’s why we need an independent chair.”
Additionally, Walmart worker shareholders presented a proposal, supported by the Sierra Club, calling for Walmart to reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by international marine shipping.
“Despite some efforts on the company’s part to reduce its carbon footprint, Walmart is still one of the largest and fastest-growing polluters in the country,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. “If Walmart is really serious about driving climate solutions, they should put their money where their mouth is by setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from international marine shipping, reporting progress toward those goals to their shareholders, and setting a deadline for 2020 to meet their commitment for 100% clean energy in the U.S.”
Earlier this year, Walmart caved to worker pressure and announced it would raise wages for 500,000 U.S. associates. Just this week, the company announced that it would raise wages for another 100,000 department managers and other specialized workers in U.S. stores. Despite these modest increases—and without any guarantee of adequate hours—many workers are still forced to rely on government assistance programs like food stamps to get by. The number of Walmart workers receiving food stamps contributes to rising food insecurity in the U.S., according to a report released in November by Eat Drink Politics.
Walmart and the Walton family – heirs to the Walmart empire – can afford to pay workers $15 an hour and provide full-time work. Since 2007, while millions of Americans were having their homes foreclosed and jobs eliminated, the fortune of six members of the Walton family has more than doubled to an astounding $148.8 billion. These six people have more wealth than 43 percent of America’s families combined.
“We’re not done yet,” said Mary Watkines, a 15-year Walmart associate, OUR Walmart member and shareholder. “We’re going to continue to speak up until all associates get what they need to support their families. That starts with getting Walmart to publicly commit to paying at least $15 an hour and a consistent full-time schedule for every associate who wants one.”
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publicly commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.