TIME magazine is doing a sorta-kinda vote on who should be the magazine’s 2012 Person of the Year (you can vote, but TIME editors will make the final call), and Walmart director Marissa Mayer is one of the nominees. Mayer certainly has had a heck of a year in 2012—she joined the board of Walmart (her first corporate board), she became the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company (and the first to start the job while pregnant), and she had her first child. But does she deserve to be Person of the Year? We think maybe 2013 might be her year instead—that is, if she takes advantage of a huge opportunity that is dangling right in front of her.
In the past few months, courageous Walmart associates across the country have gone on strike, protesting the retaliation they have faced from company management when they speak out for better pay and benefits and respect on the job. Nearly 1,200 actions in support of striking Walmart associates happened nationwide on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.
Then, last month, at least 112 workers were killed in a fire in a Bangladesh factory. Although Walmart has consistently tried to distance itself from the tragedy, news reports in recent days have shown that 5 of the factory’s 14 production lines were dedicated to making goods for Walmart. The New York Times also reported that a Walmart official played a lead role in blocking an effort to have “global retailers pay more for apparel to help Bangladesh factories improve their electrical and fire safety.”
And just last week, Walmart was named a defendant in an ongoing federal lawsuit over “rampant wage theft and retaliation” at a Walmart-contracted warehouse in Mira Loma, CA. The Huffington Post reports that court documents filed by the warehouse workers explain, “Recent discovery has established that Walmart bears ultimate responsibility for the violations of state and federal law committed against plaintiff warehouse workers.”
As a Walmart board member, Marissa Mayer has a tremendous platform that she could use to take a stand with workers in the US and throughout the globe. In 2013 (and she doesn’t even have to wait until next year!), Ms. Mayer should use her role on the Walmart board to support Walmart associates across the country who are standing up for respect on the job. And she should encourage Walmart management and her fellow board members to meet with workers so everyone can work together to make Walmart jobs better jobs. She should make sure that Walmart accepts responsibility for its role in creating safe and decent working conditions for workers in the company’s supply chain.
If Marissa Mayer uses her powerful voice to advocate for and stand alongside Walmart workers at home and abroad, we’ll definitely vote for her as Person of the Year in 2013! We think millions of Walmart workers around the world probably would too.
(By the way, TIME editors, we think Walmart strikers should be the Person of the Year! They’re the ones at the front of the movement to make the American economy work for all workers!)