NATIONWIDE Today, a Walmart associate taking action with United for Respect joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin at a shadow hearing in D.C. to testify in support of The Reward Work Act, a bill that would rein in corporate America’s outrageous amount of share buybacks and give workers a say in how their company’s profits are spent by giving them representation on the corporate board. Current and former Sears employees were also in attendance.

“Corporate profits should be shared with the workers who actually create them. It’s just wrong for big corporations to pocket massive, permanent tax breaks and reward the wealth of top executives with more stock buybacks, while closing facilities and laying off workers,” said Senator Baldwin. “We need to start rewarding hard work, and not just wealth. The explosion of corporate stock buybacks is driving wealth inequality and my legislation reins them in so that we can start investing in stronger, long-term economic growth. If we give workers a voice by providing them a seat at the table on corporate boards we can help create shared economic prosperity in our county.”

We’re demanding a say in what happens at the top because it impacts a whole bunch of us at the bottom,” said Cyndi Murray, a 19-year Walmart associate and United for Respect leader. “Sam Walton once said that, ‘If you want to know how to run your stores, ask your workers.’ Who is more qualified to help grow Walmart than us?”

Cyndi Murray also announced that her co-worker and fellow United for Respect leader Carolyn Davis from New Bern, NC   has filed a shareholder floor resolution for Walmart’s annual meeting this year, urging the board to adopt a “Rooney Rule” policy that would allow Walmart’s diverse pool of hourly associates representation on the corporate board. Such a policy would require hourly associates to be included in the initial list of candidates from which new nominees for Walmart’s board are selected.  

“The Walton heirs own half of Walmart’s outstanding shares and have more wealth than the bottom 40% of everyone in the U.S. Birthright shouldn’t decide whether someone can make thoughtful corporate decisions especially when 20- and 30-year veteran employees have unique, in-store expertise and the experience to create prosperity for all,” said Carolyn Davis, an 11-year Walmart associate and United for Respect leader. “This is fundamentally about hourly associates having the power to drive corporate change at the top, because C-suites and corporate boards are leaving us behind.”

Employees at Sears, which is emerging from bankruptcy after hedge-fund billionaire Eddie Lampert destroyed more than 250,000 jobs, also say the retailer’s frontline workforce would have benefited from employee oversight on the corporate board.

“Lampert ran Sears into the ground while personally pocketing about a billion dollars in profit. If I’d been on the Board of Directors, I would have stopped him from selling off the best parts of Sears and issuing billions in share buybacks to put more money in his own bank account,” said 30-year Sears employee and United for Respect leader Adrianna Perea, “Those decisions, more than anything else, pushed our company under and made hundreds of thousands of families pay the price.

Earlier this month, Sears and Kmart employees sent a letter to Eddie Lampert calling on the hedge fund manager and former Sears and Kmart CEO to protect their livelihoods and commit to building the company up not continuing to tear it down as the future of the company remains uncertain in the wake of a bankruptcy process Lampert precipitated.

The efforts being led by United for Respect leaders and Sen. Baldwin come amidst a growing consensus that the American model of corporate decision-making is fundamentally broken. U.S. corporations spent a trillion dollars on share repurchases last year while wages continue to flatline. From wages and working conditions to jobs and the use of corporate profits, our nation’s biggest companies too often prioritize the needs of wealthy executives and investors at the expense of hourly employees who help build them.

If you’re covering Walmart, Sears or Sen. Baldwin’s mock hearing and are interested in speaking with Cyndi Murray, Carolyn Davis or another impacted employee, please reach out to Taylor Campbell at (202) 854-9571 or [email protected].