New York, NY. City Workers Retirement System Wants Wal-Mart Report
The New York City Employees' Retirement System, which owns Wal-Mart stock, has submitted to the retailer the following shareholder resolution for the retailer's annual meeting this spring. The resolution calls for Wal-Mart to "issue a report to the
shareholders, by September of 2007, on the negative social and reputational impacts of reported and known cases of management non-compliance with International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and standards on workers' rights," and lists a series of charges against the company. This resolution will be one of a number of efforts this spring to pressure Wal-Mart to improve its worker rights record. Here is the resolution, as submitted by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. on behalf of the New York City Employees' Retirement System:
"WHEREAS, Wal-Mart's reputation has resulted in communities around the country trying to halt construction of new stores or forcing Wal-Mart to pay higher wages and benefits (BusinessWeek online, 10/30/06); and
WHEREAS, a study conducted for Wal-Mart by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that at least 2% to 8% of the company's customers have stopped shopping at the company's stores because of its reputation (BusinessWeek online, 10/30/06); and
WHEREAS, in October 2006, a state jury found that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. knowingly violated Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing employees to work during rest breaks and off the clock. Wal-Mart reportedly faces minimum damages of$62 million according to state labor statues, and the total could easily exceed $100 million (The Wall Street Journal,
10/13/06); and WHEREAS, Wal-Mart, reportedly settled a Colorado case for $50 million, and is appealing a $172 million penalty from a California jury last year (The New York Times,
10/13/06); and WHEREAS, Wal-Mart, reportedly, is pushing to create a cheaper, more flexible work force by capping wages, using more part-time workers and scheduling more workers on
nights and weekends, changes some workers say are further reducing their already modest incomes and putting a serious strain on their personal lives (The New York Times, 10/2/06); and
WHEREAS, at several stores in Florida, employees reportedly said that managers have suddenly barred older employees with back or leg problems from sitting on stools after using them for years while working as cashiers, store greeters, or fitting room attendants (The New York Times, 10/2/06); and WHEREAS, in March, 2006, workers from a Wal-Mart in Nitro, W.V. held a small protest rally in the center of town after Wal-Mart managers demanded 24-hour availability and cut the hours of workers who balked; and workers from stores around the
country reportedly said in interviews that similar demands had been made on them (The New York Times, 10/2/06); and
WHEREAS, Investment & Pensions Europe -IPE.com reported that Wal-Mart was
excluded from the Norwegian Government Pension Fund -Global investment universe because of alleged serious and systemic human rights violations (IPE.corn 6/Jun/06);
RESOLVED: The shareholders request the Board of Directors to issue a report to the shareholders, by September of 2007, on the negative social and reputational impacts of reported and known cases of management non-compliance with International Labor
Organization (ILO) conventions and standards on workers' rights and the company's legal and regulatory controls. The report should include the Board's recommendations and actions taken to improve compliance.
Investors, consumers and civil society increasingly are demanding that companies adopt good governance policies to promote sustainable business development, which includes
the protection of human rights, process transparency, and disclosure of compliance by directors and management. Companies that do not incorporate such non-financial factors
in their indicators of success could fail to win the support of investors, consumers and other stakeholders."
What you can do: Sprawl-Busters has reported on the Norwegian and Swedish pension fund statements of a similar nature, plus other shareholder activist efforts. For similar earlier statements, search Newsflash by 'shareholder.'