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Walmart workers push for board representation, citing COVID-19 concerns

Daniel Rice  

Daniel Rice  

(May 26, 2020) - A Walmart Inc. employee group is urging shareholders to support a proposal calling for the retail giant’s board to consider hourly workers when selecting director candidates.

Walmart Inc. Form PX14A6G, 2020 WL 02558017 (May 21, 2020).
Walmart has not adequately ensured worker and customer safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and would benefit from hourly employees helping oversee the retailer’s leadership, the nonprofit organization United for Respect said in a notice of exempt solicitation filed May 21 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The group said its proposal resembles the so-called Rooney Rule in the NFL, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching or senior football operation positions.
Walmart shareholders will vote on the measure at the company’s annual meeting June 3.

Inadequate COVID-19 response?

In its filing, United for Respect said Walmart has had a lackluster response to the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., underscoring the need for on-the-ground employee perspectives in the boardroom.
The group said 21 Walmart employees around the country had died from COVID-19 as of its May 21 filing.
According to the filing, United for Respect conducted a survey of 1,500 Walmart workers on the effectiveness of the company’s safety measures during the pandemic. It revealed that Walmart delayed implementing crowd size limits in its stores and has failed to ensure that workers can maintain appropriate social distancing.
Walmart workers also reported a lack of personal protective equipment and disinfecting supplies, insufficient time for enhanced cleaning, and leave policies that discourage employees from staying home when sick, United for Respect said.
In addition to addressing worker safety concerns, hourly-worker representation on the board would improve the company’s performance and shareholder value, the group said.

Company opposition

Walmart’s board opposes the proposal.
In an opposition statement in the company’s April 23 proxy statement, Walmart’s directors said the board’s nominating and governance committee seeks candidates with skills and backgrounds overseeing companies “at an enterprise level.”
”Our board values the insights gained from diverse professional experiences and backgrounds in executive or director-level leadership roles with other large international organizations,” Walmart said.
The company said it values worker feedback and has multiple channels for hourly employees to communicate their concerns and perspectives to management.

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