NATIONWIDE – In response to news that California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Washington Attorney Generals sent a letter to Walmart raising concerns that the company has not taken adequate steps to protect employees and the public amid the COVID-19 pandemic and calling on the CEO to adopt a more robust paid leave policy, United for Respect released the following statement from Cyndi Murray, Walmart Associate and Founding Member of United for Respect:
“The Attorney Generals have validated what Walmart associates have been saying from day one of the pandemic: Walmart is not prioritizing our health, the health of our families, or our customers. CEO McMillon should stop spending money on commercials calling us “heroes” and instead provide meaningful paid leave, hazard pay, and sit down with us so we can work together to keep everyone safe. We expect to see more elected officials follow their lead and demand accountability from Walmart.
“Everyone needs enough paid time off to care for themselves and their families, but for too long now, Walmart’s policies have penalized us for doing just that. Now the coronavirus pandemic has lifted the veil on Walmart’s failed leave policy that is putting our health and customers’ health at risk. The letter by the 12 Attorney Generals underscores the public health risk of allowing CEO McMillon to continue business as usual. We need the leadership and oversight of frontline associates in the boardroom. Hourly associates, not billionaire Walton heirs, will act in the best interest of associates, customers, and investors.”
The joint letter from Attorney Generals Xavier Becerra (CA), William Tong (CT), Kathy Jennings (DE), Karl A. Racine (DC), Kwame Raoul (IL), Brian Frosh (MD), Maura Healey (MA), Dana Nessel (MI), Keith Ellison (MN), Hector Balderas (NM), Josh Shapiro (PA), and Bob Ferguson (WA) comes less than a week after Walmart associates hosted their first-ever alternative shareholder meeting for employees where they released a comprehensive timeline that underscores the consistent failure of Walmart’s executive team to properly manage the COVID-19 crisis. In some cases, Walmart took more than seven weeks after the CDC’s urging for employers to plan for social distancing to announce limits on the number of customers permitted in stores.
The retailer’s failures, according to an exempt solicitation filed by United for Respect with Majority Action in support of Proposal 7, were compounded by a breakdown in the flow of information between leadership and associates’ reports from ground operations; inconsistency between stores on key policies; and a failure to incorporate and address associates’ concerns related to public and worker safety. A survey of 1500 associates nationwide conducted by United for Respect in early May found that only 9% were able to always maintain at least six feet distance from other people while at work during the month of April. Only 2 in 5 associates said they trust Walmart to keep them, their coworkers, and customers safe during the COVID-19 crisis. Interviews with associates reported a lack of protective equipment and insufficient time to clean. Many said that enhanced overnight cleaning is not happening at their stores.
United for Respect members who are Walmart shareholders are throwing their support behind Proposal 7 on Walmart’s proxy, which will be voted on at Walmart’s shareholder meeting on June 3 and urges Walmart to consider hourly associates as candidates for Walmart’s Board of Directors. A cohort of four Walmart associates — Cyndi Murray, Cat Davis, Mary Pat Tifft, and Melissa Love — have been engaging with Walmart investors to encourage support for worker representation on the Board. Central to the call for worker board representation is frontline associates’ critical role in keeping stores safe for customers and associates alike, as well as their interest in making Walmart work for all stakeholders.