The Walmart 1 Percent Has Tough Week as Company Shareholder Meeting Nears

As Walmart prepares for its shareholder meeting next Friday, June 1, several members of the Walmart 1 Percent were confronted this week by Walmart workers and their allies. Members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart) visited Walmart US CEO Bill Simon, Walmart Board Member Michele Burns, and Walmart Board Nominee Marissa Mayer.

Michele Burns faces crowds and tough questions

(Photo via ALIGN NY)

Walmart board member Michele Burns spent the day in Jersey City, NJ, at the Goldman Sachs annual meeting. Burns, no stranger to controversy, is on the boards of both of these scandal-ridden companies. She served on the Walmart board’s audit committee in 2005 and 2006, when the company was reportedly grappling with knowledge of the bribery scandal in Mexico. Last week, proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis recommended that shareholders vote against seven of Walmart’s board members, including Michele Burns, at the company’s annual meeting June 1.

So it’s no surprise that Burns was greeted by community members, including ALIGN NY, concerned about Walmart’s practices outside Goldman’s meeting today.

Inside, Burns faced tough questions about her roles at Goldman and Walmart. The New York Times reports:

Several shareholders spoke, objecting to Goldman’s decision to have Michele Burns lead the board’s audit committee. One shareholder pointed out that she was on Wal-Mart’s audit committee in 2005 and 2006, when the retailer is said to have bribed officials in Mexico. He said having her lead Goldman’s audit committee “sends the wrong message to shareholders.”

Marissa Mayer invited to hang out with Walmart Associates

(Photo via Walmart Free NYC)

Newly nominated Walmart Board member Marissa Mayer also had a visit Wednesday from Walmart workers and allies on Wednesday. OUR Walmart members delivered a cake to Ms. Mayer, along with an invitation, asking her to join a Google+ Hangout.

The invitation read, in part:

@MarissaMayer

Check your hair and make sure your mic works! Walmart associates want to hang out!

Walmart associates with Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart – forrespect.org) are excited to learn about your nomination to Walmart’s Board of Directors. As an executive at Google, your company has been called the best company to work for in America. Now, that’s decidedly “not evil.”

When you join Walmart’s BOD, you’ll find yourself overseeing a company with a very different – and less appealing – work culture. (Seriously, Google it.) We’d like to hang out and discuss our ideas for how you can help Walmart create the type of positive work environment you created at Google – a workplace culture that respects and values associates…

We’re working hard to make Walmart a better company and a better employer. We know that your likely election to the Board of Directors will signal a new moment for the company – one in which our voices as workers, consumers and communities can be truly heard and one in which real accountability and oversight become more than buzzwords.

What better way for us to meet you and to exchange ideas than a Google+ Hangout?! We look forward to hanging out soon.

More tough questions in Boston

Finally, Walmart US CEO Bill Simon spoke at a Morgan Stanley sponsored investor conference on Wednesday in Boston. Although company security was quick to usher her out, an activist at Making Change at Walmart was able to get a question out to Mr. Simon. Her question:

In the wake of the Mexico bribery allegations, recent statements by major pension funds and investor advisory services seem to signal an emerging crisis of con¬fidence in the current leadership of Walmart. In addition, the company’s recent disclosures suggest that corruption problems may extend beyond Mexico.

How can you assure shareholders that Walmart will conduct an adequate internal investigation, given apparent conflicts of interest on the present Board:

1)The current and prior CEO, both of whom sit on the Board, have been implicated in the scandal?

2) Other current Board members were on the Audit Committee in 2005 and 2006 when the scandal came to light internally.

3) Two other current Board members are related to the Chairman?

It’s been a busy week! With lots more to come in the weeks and months ahead.

What do you think?