Walmart Associates, joined by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Chuy García, Secretary Robert Reich, to Host First-Ever Alternative Shareholder Meeting Calling on Corporation to Give Employees a Real Voice in COVID-19 Response
Employee-sourced COVID-19 tracker reports 805 COVID-19 cases at stores nationwide; new study shows Walmart waited seven weeks before starting to implement CDC guidelines
Virtual meeting May 28 at 3:00pm EDT — media RSVP to [email protected]
NATIONWIDE — Ahead of Walmart’s annual general meeting, Walmart associates and members of United for Respect will host the first-ever alternative shareholder meeting for employees Thursday, where they will outline Walmart’s failed COVID-19 response that has likely contributed to at least 22 deaths and 805 COVID-19 cases nationwide among Walmart associates. In light of this avoidable tragedy, United for Respect members will call on the corporation to give employees a real voice in keeping stores safe and provide hazard pay at 1.5 times frontline workers’ regular compensation. A cohort of four Walmart associates — Cyndi Murray, Cat Davis, Mary Pat Tifft and Melissa Love — have been making the case on why they support Proposal 7 on Walmart’s proxy card, which would include hourly associates as candidates for Walmart’s Board of Directors.
Joined by Senator Tammy Baldwin, Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Walmart employees will make the case for why frontline associates, who have raised numerous red flags on Walmart’s slow response to the pandemic, have the best understanding of necessary policies to keep themselves, their customers and communities safe.
To RSVP for Walmart associates’ alternative shareholder meeting on Thursday, May 28 at 3:00pm EDT, email [email protected]
A comprehensive timeline by United for Respect and the Center for Popular Democracy underscores the consistent failure of Walmart’s executive team to properly manage this crisis, despite warnings from as early as January 2020. In some cases, Walmart took more than seven weeks following the CDC’s urging for employers to plan for social distancing to announce limits on the number of customers permitted in stores; even still, recent store closures reveal Walmart failed to properly enforce social distancing.
“We can’t adequately protect ourselves and our customers, unless we have a way to directly improve corporate policies. We’ve consistently raised red flags about Walmart’s slow, ineffective response to COVID-19, out of concern for our families’ and our customers’ safety. Instead of listening to us, they gave us an extra $40 a week, a minuscule bonus for the sacrifices we are making,” said Cat Davis, a Walmart associate of 12 years and member of United for Respect, who will be presenting at Walmart’s annual general meeting.
WHAT: “We Run Walmart: Workers on Corporate Boards” — A Virtual Meeting for Walmart Associates
WHO: Walmart associates
Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary
Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Representative Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL)
Francesca Fiorentini, journalist, activist and stand up comedian
WHEN: Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 3:00pm EDT
RSVP: [email protected]
The retailer’s failures, according to an exempt solicitation filed last week by United for Respect with Majority Action in support of Walmart associate Cynthia Murray’s shareholder proposal (Proposal 7 on Walmart’s proxy), 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 associate concerns related to public and worker safety. Proposal 7 asks the Board to include hourly associates on the initial list of candidates from which new Board members are chosen. With Walmart brand’s reputation on the line following its failed COVID-19 response, the representation of associates on the Board of Directors would bring deep expertise in the day-to-day operations of Walmart stores, increasing necessary scrutiny of risky corporate behavior, short-termism, and misaligned compensation incentives for executives.
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 lack of cleaning and protective equipment and insufficient time to clean, and said that enhanced overnight cleaning is not happening at many stores.
Walmart has not disclosed how many associates have contracted and died from COVID-19. The corporation’s lack of transparency and failure to protect employees, customers and the public pushed associates who are member-leaders of United for Respect to take matters into their own hands and create a COVID-19 tracker. The tool allows associates to crowd-source information and report cases so coworkers and communities are always informed of store conditions and potential outbreaks. As of May 27, the tracker has collected nearly 600 COVID-19 reports from associates, and counted at least 805 COVID-19 illnesses of Walmart associates.
“We’re taking matters into our own hands. We’re tracking COVID-19 deaths and illnesses at stores, and by coming together, we are making sure customers and associates’ health and safety is prioritized. It’s time for us to be compensated for the risk we are taking: we need time and a half pay during this pandemic. And to make sure Walmart stays accountable, we need a seat on the Board, so responsible decisions for public health and safety can be made,” said Cynthia Murray, who filed Proposal 7 and will be presenting it alongside Cat Davis at Walmart’s shareholder meeting. She has been a Walmart associate for over 20 years and is a founding member of United for Respect.
Despite the heightened risk Walmart employees face by continuing to serve Walmart’s customers, and a 20% increase in U.S. sales in March due to pandemic-related spikes, CEO Doug McMillon has failed to institute hazard pay. Associates’ priority will be to win hazard pay at 1.5 times their hourly pay as baseline compensation for the risk and sacrifice taken. Walmart’s recent COVID-19 related bonuses (averaging about $19 a week for part-time associates and $37 for full time) are about half as much as the $2 an hour raises Walmart’s competitors (including Target, Amazon and Costco) provided to their employees. Those companies also have a higher base wage of $15 an hour in 2020, compared to Walmart at $11 an hour.
United for Respect also filed a shareholder proposal (Proposal 8) to strengthen Walmart’s prevention of workplace sexual harassment. The Proposal asks the Board to formalize its oversight responsibility by aligning senior executive compensation incentives, reviewing and revising company policies, and updating shareholders on actions taken by the end of this year. Walmart is the largest corporate employer of women in the U.S. In October 2019, the EEOC filed suit against Walmart stating that “from 2014 to 2018 a Walmart employee regularly made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to a female co-worker.” In 2018, a high-profile article documented a female associate’s struggle to hold her manager accountable for inappropriately touching her. Similar harassment complaints, from employees taking inappropriate pictures to discrimination against transgender employees, have been lodged.