RESOLVED that shareholders of Walmart Inc. (“Walmart”) ask the Board of Directors to create a “Pandemic Workforce Advisory Council” (the“Council”), composed of hourly associates, to provide advice to the Board (including any relevant Board committee) upon request on pandemic-related workforce issues, including health and safety measures, whistleblower protection, and paid sick leave. Walmart would have the discretion to disband the council when no pandemic has been declared.
I am a 20-year Walmart Associate, and I believe Walmart’sresponse to the COVID-19 pandemic has failed employees and communities in which Walmart operates and created risks for shareholders. As essential workers, we put ourselves and our families at risk to provide customers with necessities. Although Walmart does not publicly report COVID-19 cases or deaths and managers have reportedly been coached to avoid disclosing infections, numerous outbreaks have been linked to Walmart stores including one in Massachusetts where 81associates tested positive. According to reports from associates and the press, we know that thousands of associates have contracted COVID-19 and at least 22 have died, although that number is likely much higher. We depend on Walmart to protect us, but Walmart delayed adopting measures recommended by the Centers for disease control and Prevention, such as reducing crowding in stores, cleaning more intensively, and providing protective gear associates. Implementation and enforcement in stores have been uneven at best.
Walmart’s emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave policy has also fallen short. A May 2020 survey of Walmart Associates found that 45% had gone to work sick during the pandemic, with 58% of those doing so because they feared retaliation, such as being scheduled for fewer hours, or disciplinary consequences. A confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis or mandatory quarantine is required to access additional paid leave under Walmart’semergency policy, which can be a significant obstacle given that many Associates do not have adequate health coverage.
I believe that improving the flow of information between frontline workers and Walmart’s board, which oversees the company’s management and has the power to set policy, would lead to more timely, consistent, and effective action at the store level and would reduce reputational and financial risks to the company. Walmart’sfounder, Sam Walton, exalted the value of Associate input: “The folks on the frontlines – the ones who actually talk to the customer – are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. You’d better find out what they know.” But even before COVID-19, Walmart failed to recognize the value of empowering Associates, with concerns raised about understaffing, the sick leave policy, and ineligibility for health benefits; the pandemic has shown the folly of that approach.
My proposal does not dictate how Walmart should select Associates for membership on the Council. I recommend, however, that Walmart uses a mechanism by which Associates can select some or all of the members to ensure that the Council truly represents hourly Associate views.