Making Change at Walmart, the group devoted to criticizing Walmart’s labor practices, has blasted the company for planned changes in annual meeting procedures that it says will block workers from the business portion of the meeting and silence critical voices.

The annual events begin next week. This is how the company announced the changes earlier this year.

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The MCW release:

Today, Making Change at Walmart (MCAW), a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers International labor union, is launching a campaign ahead of Walmart’s annual shareholders meeting slamming the retailer for its attempt to silence the majority of Walmart workers’ voices by removing the formal shareholder meeting from the main audience of over 20,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in the Bud Walton arena during this year’s annual Walmart shareholders meeting in Fayetteville, Ark.

“For the first time in Walmart shareholder meeting history, Walmart’s top 1% has changed the rules to exclude Walmart workers from being present during business discussions on wages and other proposals that affect them on a daily basis, further silencing the voice of its workers,” says MCAW director Randy Parraz.

In a major departure from Walmart’s previous shareholder meetings and from Sam Walton’s original vision of creating “the feeling that we are a family committed to one common interest,” Walmart executives are removing shareholder comments and voting on proposals from the “Associate celebration,” instead scheduling the business portion to take place at a different date, time and location. Walmart executives are also creating rules on who can attend the business meeting, noting that only associates with shares can be present and that all shareholders must present a photo I.D. and proof of ownership. This move will result in a smaller, more controlled audience during shareholder public comment than in previous years when the business portion took place in front of the main 20,000-plus audience of workers in the Bud Walton arena, oftentimes leading to crowd cheers and dissent when proposal comments included low wages and lack of benefits for Walmart workers.

As a result of numerous workers being excluded and silenced from participating in this year’s shareholder business meeting, Walmart workers across the country have joined the nationally-acclaimed Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) highlighting Walmart’s low wages, inconsistent and unfair scheduling and insufficient benefits as contributing to systemic poverty in the U.S. Workers like Rose Campbell, Lorene Berry and James Collins have been speaking at PPC rallies throughout the U.S. over the past several weeks, creating a national platform to expose Walmart’s practices and policies that trap workers in a life of poverty.

MCAW will continue its shareholders campaign with a series of statements and digital ads next week aimed to educate the public, as well as Walmart workers and shareholders, on Walmart’s censorship of its business meeting and will provide answers as to what Walmart is hiding when it removes the majority of associates from participating in this year’s shareholder business meeting.

Traditionally, Walmart’s formal business meeting, which includes discussing and voting on shareholder proposals, has always been conducted during the main Associate celebration inside the Bud Walton arena with over 20,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in attendance, as well as Walmart executives and shareholders.
During last year’s shareholders meeting, 2 Walmart workers spoke as proxies during the formal business portion, touching on low wages and poor benefits, and were received with cheers from the crowd of Walmart and Sam’s Club workers in the Bud Walton arena. MCAW’s communications director also spoke on behalf of the Teamsters union advocating its proposal for an independently elected board member.

Additional shareholder proposals from last year’s formal business can be found here.

This year, however, formal business will take place Wednesday, May 30th from 10 – 11 a.m. CST in the smaller John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers, Ark. with strict instructions on who can attend the meeting (shareholders must show proof of share ownership and photo ID). The main Associate celebration will be held two days later on June 1 from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST in the Bud Walton arena in Fayetteville, Ark. For the full 2018 agenda, click here.

Proposals on the agenda to be discussed and voted on during formal business this year can be found here.

MCAW’s shareholders campaign will include a series of press releases, fact sheets, worker statements and videos, and digital ads targeting investors and Walmart workers leading up to the Associate celebration on Friday, June 1 in Fayetteville, Ark.