Walmart workers on June 25 showed up at Yahoo!’s annual shareholders meeting to ask Yahoo!’s CEO Marissa Mayer some questions.
The workers wanted to know why Mayer is strengthening ties between Yahoo! and Walmart and why as a Walmart board member Mayer has refused to talk to Walmart workers about their poverty wages and the firing of workers speaking out for change at the retail giant.
One of the Walmart workers at the shareholders meeting in Sunnyvale, California was Barbara Collins, a six-year Walmart employee until she was fired last year three days after attempting to ask Mayer to use her position as a Walmart board member to improve work at Walmart.
Collins, a member of OUR Walmart, a national organization of Walmart associates, had expected a more supportive response from Mayer who has taken steps to improve work at Yahoo!, especially for working mothers like Collins.
“If Ms Mayer is serious about addressing the challenges facing working moms, she could make a huge impact by using her independent director position at Walmart to help the company improve jobs,” said Collins. “Minimum pay of $25,000 a year and full-time work would bring thousands (of) families out of poverty.”
Currently, the average hourly wage of a Walmart sales associate, according to glassdoor, is $8.86 an hour, or $17,806 for an associate who works 40 hours per week. That’s nearly $1,900 below the federal poverty level for a family of three, and many Walmart associates don’t work 40 hours a week.
OUR Walmart is proposing that Walmart raise its pay to a minimum of $12 an hour. Doing so, would raise the average full-time associate annual pay to nearly $25,000.
Poverty wages and other grievances have led Walmart workers to organize and take action to improve work at Walmart.
Most recently, Walmart mothers and other OUR members conducted a one-day strike at Walmart stores in 20 US cities. In addition to protesting poverty wages, they were demanding that the company rehire workers like Collins who were illegally fired by Walmart.
OUR members have been trying to talk to Mayer since she was hired as Yahoo!’s CEO in July 2012.
They thought that given her background she would be more sympathetic than other Walmart board members.
She was a fund raiser for President Obama and instituted policies at Yahoo! that extended the maternity leave and provided cash bonuses for parents.
But Mayer has rebuffed their efforts.
According to the blog The Walmart 1%:
Walmart workers and supporters have made a dozen separate attempts to reach her, including in late June (of 2013) when fired OUR Walmart members and supporters went to Yahoo! Headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA to speak with Ms Mayer. Police arrested members of the delegation after Ms Mayer refused to meet with them to hear their concerns.
In addition to refusing to meet with Walmart workers, Mayer has been strengthen ties between Yahoo! and Walmart. It was recently learned that Yahoo! will be appointing former Walmart CEO H. Lee Scott to the Yahoo! board.
Under Scott’s leadership, Walmart came under scrutiny for corrupt business practices.
While Scott was Walmart’s CEO, the company was linked to bribery scandals in Mexico and India. After the New York Times broke the story about the bribery scandals, Scott and other tainted Walmart officers resigned their positions.
Walmart is currently under investigation by the US Justice Department for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and is facing a number of investor lawsuits resulting from the scandals.
According to the New York Times, Walmart has spent nearly one-half billion defending itself from civil suits and the criminal investigation resulting from the scandals.
“Under M. Scott’s leadership at Walmart the company has become the subject of federal investigations for alleged bribery charges,” said Dominic Ware, an OUR member who addressed the Yahoo! shareholders’ meeting. “It’s hard to understand why Yahoo! would consider appointing Mr. Scott to the board with such a problematic track record.”
The huge expense of defending Walmart from the fallout of scandals, however, has not caused the company to scrimp on bonuses for its top executives. During the last six years, eight of Walmart’s top executives have pocketed $298 million in bonuses.
Meanwhile, the average Walmart hourly pay rate remains below or near the poverty level.
“Associate shareholders are tired of seeing executive pay continually rising when return on investment keeps falling and a majority of our Walmart employees associate colleagues are paid less than $25,000 per year,” said Charmaine Givens-Thomas, an OUR member, who spoke at Walmart’s recent shareholders’ meeting. “This unjustified pay gap demoralizes employees, especially when shoppers are already saying that the low pay and disrespect of workers is keeping them from shopping at Walmart stores.”