Pressure on Walmart Board of Directors grows, with protests planned this week in half a dozen cities
Workers, community leaders join shareholders calling for Board shake-up
WASHINGTON – Walmart associates, including employee-shareholders, and community activists have been confronting members of the Walmart board of directors in protests in the past several weeks, with escalating protests happening this week in the days leading up to the Walmart shareholders meeting Friday. The protests, which will include confrontations with Walmart board members Rob Walton, Greg Penner, and others, are taking place as major Walmart shareholders and advisory groups call for the removal of key Walmart board members and new transparency on executive pay through proposal #6. Also last week, current Walmart board member Michele Burns faced not only a crowd of protestors outside, but tough questions from Goldman Sachs shareholders inside its annual meeting last week in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Burns is also a Goldman Sachs board member.)
“Walmart board members should leave the protected confines of the boardroom and ‘hang out’ with OUR Walmart members to hear our concerns about what is happening at the company,” said Barbara Collins, a Walmart associate at store #2418 in Placerville, California. “My fellow Associates want to be a part of the solution and fix the problems that exist at Walmart. The company’s executives haven’t been forthright about what is happening inside the company and board members might benefit from hearing new perspectives.”
This week, Walmart Associates and community leaders will confront Walmart board members in multiple locations around the country:
- Wednesday, May 30th – New York City action on Rob Walton
- Thursday, May 31st – Parade to Walmart’s Washington, D.C. headquarters
- Thursday, May 31st – Chicago action on Linda Wolf
- Friday, June 1st – National day of action to coincide with Walmart shareholders meeting
Other events planned for this week will seek to confront Walmart board members Jim Walton, Lee Scott, Greg Penner and CEO Mike Duke.
Separately, last Wednesday, newly nominated Walmart Board member Marissa Mayer was asked to join a Google+ hangout with Walmart associates who are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) a group of workers who are organizing for changes that will improve working conditions and business performance at Walmart. OUR Walmart members delivered a cake to Meyer and then followed back up with a delivery of flowers and another invitation to “hang out” today on Google+.
Pressure is growing for changes to the Walmart board: The largest pension fund in the U.S., and several other large funds, announced they will vote their shares for a proposal on executive pay (proposal #6) and against some members of the current board leadership up for re-election, including Walton heir and chairman of the board Rob Walton. The New York Pension Fund was the first to make such an announcement, followed by California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), with 7.7 million shares, California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), which filed a lawsuit in early May in relation to the alleged bribery, the Florida State Board of Administration and the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds.
Additionally, the largest shareholder proxy advisory firm, ISS, recommended shareholders vote for proposal #6 and against four members of the board. European advisory firms PIRC and F&C recommended voting against some of the Walmart board members, though not all. A number of European pension funds have divested from Walmart entirely, including the Dutch funds ABP and PNO Media, and the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.
A petition created by Walmart associate Venanzi Luna calling for the resignation of Walmart CEO Mike Duke added 10,000 signatures in its first week. Additionally, hourly Walmart associates who also hold shares in the company, including the four who submitted proposal #6, are reaching out to fellow Walmart shareholders for a first-ever campaign-style GOTV effort through the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart). There are hundreds of thousands of shareholders who are either current or former Walmart retail associates.
Proposal #6, which calls for greater disclosure about incentive pay, was introduced by Mary Tifft, Jackie Goebel, Girshriela Green and Carlton Smith, all of whom are current Walmart associates, with collectively over 60 years of service with the company.
Making Change at Walmart is a campaign challenging Walmart to help rebuild our economy and strengthen working families. Anchored by UFCW, we are a coalition of Walmart associates, union members, small business owners, religious leaders, women advocacy groups, multi-ethnic coalitions, elected officials, and ordinary citizens who believe that changing Walmart is vital for the future of our country. The UFCW and OUR Walmart have provided technical assistance to the four shareholder sponsors of Proposal #6, and we continue to support their efforts to campaign on its behalf.