Walmart shareholders are meeting in Rogers today and they heard presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speak for a proposal to put an hourly worker on the Walmart board. It is certain to be rejected by shareholders, dominated by the Walton family’s controlling interest.
Both Board chair Greg Penner and CEO Doug McMillion welcomed Sanders to the meeting. McMillon, in opening remarks, said the company was seeing growth in both same-store sales and e-commerce and making money despite big investments in new technology and pay increases for employees. He also touted gains in using sustainable sources of energy and reducing waste sent to landfills. “We’re not perfect,” McMillon said. But the company is “learning, listening and changing.”
The company recommended approval of proposals on the election of the board, executive compensation and appointment of an accountant. Then it heard from an employee who urged approval of a resolution calling for stronger policies against sexual harassment. She told of difficulty getting action against an abusive manager in her store. Rachel Brand, executive vice president and corporate secretary, responded by saying the company didn’t support the proposal but doesn’t tolerate harassment and has strong processes in place to deal with it.
Then Sanders spoke on the resolution to consider hourly employees for board seats. Despite incredible wealth, he said, Walmart pays many employees “starvation wages” and some are forced to rely on government programs to survive.
“American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said. He said the equality gap in the country was illustrated by Walmart paying its CEO 1,000 times more than the average employee.
The company had $10 billion in profits, paid the CEO $20 million and authorized $20 billion in stock buybacks that benefited the wealthiest stockholders, Sanders said. “Surely with all that, Walmart can afford to pay its employees a living wage of at least $15 an hour. Strike a blow against corporate greed. Do the right thing. Pass this resolution.”
Brand responded briefly. She noted the company’s opposition to the resolution but said it did believe in the importance of listening to its employees and referred to McMillon’s remarks earlier, in which he’d mentioned efforts to improve pay and bonuses and also mentioned the need for a federal minimum wage increase. She said there’d be more on that topic,
Votes on the resolutions will be announced later today. UPDATE: The company announced in the afternoon that the unendorsed resolutions were indeed defeated.
In the live stream, the camera only showed the backs of speakers talking from the floor. Each was allowed three minutes.
But he also posted on Twitter:
The Waltons – the owners of Walmart – earn $25,000 a minute.
The average Walmart employee makes $25,000 a year.
My message to the Waltons is simple: Pay your employees a living wage of $15 an hour! pic.twitter.com/rYdzN9LIS5
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 5, 2019