NATIONWIDE — Today, United for Respect members who work at Walmart called out from their shifts across the nation amidst mounting COVID-19 cases and deaths among employees in stores. Calling for the billionaire Waltons and CEO Doug McMillon to enforce social distancing and to provide meaningful hazard pay, universal paid leave, comprehensive healthcare, and personal protective equipment to all associates immediately, Walmart employees also sent a letter to the Board of Directors, saying, “Without much stronger action from Walmart management to limit exposure and contagion, more people may die and Walmart stores might become vectors for community spread of the coronavirus.”

“We’ve decided to call out to protect ourselves and our coworkers and to draw attention to Walmart’s failure to protect us and our customers. In calling out, we join Associates across the country who are already out on LOA,” said Armando Valenzuela, a United for Respect member who has worked at Walmart for nearly 24 years in Chula Vista, CA. “We know from the press and from conversations with our co-workers that at least five Walmart associates have already died from coronavirus, two from the same store, and dozens more across the country are testing positive each day — including a coworker in my store! Why don’t we have adequate paid leave yet? Our stores are still too crowded to practice social distancing. Why don’t we have adequate protective equipment? We’re talking to you, Walmart!”

Today’s employees join the growing ranks of people who have been walking out, calling out of work and taking leaves of absence from Walmart to protect themselves and the health and safety of their families. Walmart is the largest corporate employer of Black and Latinx workers, who are more likely to have to work outside the home, already at high risk for COVID-19 and less likely to have access to testing.

Over the recent weeks, three key patterns have emerged defining Walmart’s failed response to COVID-19, namely (1) refusing to follow social distancing guidelines or offer protective equipment (and in some cases not allowing employees to bring their own), (2) failing to disclose positive cases to customers, the community, and Walmart’s own employees in stores and (3) exacerbating this crisis by offering inadequate paid sick leave, as well as leaving hundreds of thousand without affordable healthcare.

After consecutive weeks of irresponsible measures by Walmart to protect its frontline employees and customers in response to COVID-19, United for Respect members working at Walmart sent a letter to CEO Doug McMillon this month outlining calls for real action.

“Today, we’re sharing our recommendations on how to immediately improve conditions in our stores. We know what policies need to be in place at Walmart for our stores to be safe for everyone who comes in to work or shop. We’ve pointed out gaps in Walmart’s policies but company management hasn’t listened. That needs to stop today,” said Cyndi Murray, a United for Respect member who has worked at Walmart for nearly 20 years. “Walmart’s executives and board members are too far removed from our day-to-day realities as employees to be able to properly protect us or customers during this pandemic. If Walmart’s serious about saving lives, they need to include hourly associates in decision-making during these moments of crisis, and beyond.”

Despite the heightened risk Walmart employees face by continuing to serve the public, the corporation continues to neglect their safety in and out of crisis situations, and has failed to institute hazard pay to adequately compensate those who are putting themselves and their families at risk by working. United for Respect members are also alarmed that Walmart has apparently not informed employees when coworkers in their store have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Employees are calling on the billionaire Waltons who own Walmart and CEO Doug McMillon to immediately stop putting associates’ lives at risk.

Since its launch last month, a paid sick leave petition has garnered nearly 100,000 signatures, signaling growing employee momentum for an overhauled sick time policy at the nation’s largest corporate employers. If you’re covering Walmart and would like to speak to an hourly employee, please contact Taylor Campbell at (202) 854-9571 or [email protected] or Melissa Uribe at 510-863-4011 or [email protected].