Communities and Walmart associates call for Walmart officials to resign
On Sunday, April 21st, the New York Times reported allegations of widespread bribery by Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico, in order to achieve fast growth in the country over the past decade. The article went on to show how top Wal-Mart officials were aware of the allegations.
Last week workers and community members responded with calls for accountability and an end to corruption and cover-ups. Venanzi Luna, a Walmart associates and leader in the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), launched a petition on change.org calling on CEO Mike Duke and Board Chair Rob Walton to re-sign, and for the Board of Directors to launch a thorough and independent investigation. In just a few days, the petition has gained over 5,000 signatures towards its goal of 10,000.
In several major cities, Jobs with Justice chapters joined actions to echo these demands and call on board members to step up and take responsibility for sorting out the mess.
In New York City, elected officials joined community and labor leaders at a press conference in front of City Hall on April 24th to denounce the cover-up and call for a Department of Justice investigation. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the city’s public advocate, Bill de Blasio, and former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson all made statements criticizing Walmart and calling on the company to give up its campaign to build in a store in New York City. “More and more New Yorkers are growing skeptical of Wal-Mart’s plans and promises for our city—and for good reason,” said Matt Ryan, executive director at the Alliance for a Greater New York, a Jobs with Justice affiliate. “Armed with the latest news about Walmart de Mexico’s illegal practices, the city must investigate Wal-Mart’s recent dealings with public officials and developers in its bid to move to New York City.”
Later in the week, members of Walmart Free NYC visited the offices of Walmart Board member Michelle Burns to find out what, if anything, she knew about the company’s widely reported bribery scheme. Burns, along with fellow NYC-based Board member Christopher Williams, sat on the board’s audit committee at the time of the alleged probe and cover-up.
The same day, members of the Respect DC coalition brought more than 40 people into the JW Marriott hotel in Washington,DC to call on Walmart board member, and Marriott President and CEO, Arne Sorenson to hold top Walmart officials accountable for their role in the alleged bribery and cover up scandal.
Following the action, the delegation went to City Hall to make sure members of the DC Council were aware of the scandal and to call for a halt to all Walmart construction in DC until a full investigation by the Department of Justice into Walmart's dealings in Mexico and a local investigation into what they have been doing to enter DC.
Finally, on Friday, members of the Change Walmart Massachusetts campaign made a public call to Walmart board member Dr. James Cash to support the call for resignations of top executives who are implicated in the bribery scandal. Dr. Cash works at the General Catalyst Partners in Harvard Square, Cambridge and is a professor emeritus of the Harvard Business School.
“Walmart’s senior management has proven that it is willing to trample on the human rights of workers, discriminate against women, damage small businesses and the environment, and now potentially violate laws in the United States, Mexico and other countries” said Horace Small, Executive Director of the Union of Minority Neighborhoods. “Communities must be able to decide democratically what is right for them without outside money interfering. Walmart has shown over and over that it does not care if its actions are ethically or legally wrong – as long as there are profits to be made.” added Russ Davis, Executive Director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.