OPERATIONS

Bernie Sanders to speak up for employees at Walmart annual meeting

BY Marianne Wilson

A prominent presidential candidate will be in attendance at Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting next month.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will attend the meeting, which will take place on June 5 in Bentonville, Ark., to introduce a proposal that would give hourly Walmart workers a seat on the company’s board. The news was first reported by The Washington Post. The proposal would require Walmart to consider its 1.5 million hourly U.S. employees when nominating candidates to its board.

“These workers need and deserve a seat at the table,” Sanders the Post. “If hourly workers at Walmart were well represented on its board, I doubt you would see the CEO of Walmart making over a thousand times more than its average worker.”

Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, was invited to speak at the meeting by Walmart employee Cat Davis, who filed the proposal. Davis is also a leader in workers’ rights organization United for Respect.

“At a time of deepening racial and economic divide and insecurity, hourly associates can guide a more fair, inclusive and equitable corporate ecosystem that bridges differences,” the proposal states.

Sanders has been outspoken in his criticism of Walmart (and Amazon). In November, he introduced a bill that would prohibit large companies from buying back stock until they pay all employees at least $15 an hour. At the same time, he fired off a series of tweets in which he railed against the federal minimum wage – $7.25 per hour – and the Walton family.

The proposed legislation, called the “Stop WALMART Act,” was co-sponsored by Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and would also require large employers to give workers up to seven days of paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a family member, and cap executive compensation at 150 times the median employee wage.

A Walmart spokesperson said the company would not comment on Davis’s proposal until it was formally presented at the meeting, according to the report.

“We’re proud of the fact that 75% of our U.S. management associates began their career as frontline hourly associates,” the company stated. “If Senator Sanders attends, we hope he will approach his visit not as a campaign stop, but as a constructive opportunity to learn about the many ways we’re working to provide increased economic opportunity, mobility and benefits to our associates — as well as our widely recognized leadership on environmental sustainability.”

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