On June 5, Walmart held its annual shareholders’ meeting for 2019 at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers. Shareholders and company executives for the Arkansas based retail chain were in attendance, along with Vermont Senator and 2020 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Among the day’s events was the announcement that all 12 director nominees had been elected, with roughly 97 percent of the shareholders voting to affirm them. All but four of these nominees received approximately 99 percent yes votes, according to a Walmart press release.
The shareholders also voted in a landslide to approve annual compensation packages for Walmart’s top executives. Approximately 91 percent of the votes tallied were in favor of this proposal.
Three additional proposals were also presented at the meeting: one to strengthen the prevention of sexual harassment, another to include hourly associates among the potential director candidates considered by the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board and lastly, a request to adopt a cumulative voting standard in the election of directors. None of these proposals passed.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 Democrat Presidential Candidate, was able to attend and speak at the event following an invitation from a Walmart employee. Sanders has been no stranger to sharp criticism of the company throughout his political career, and Wednesday was no exception.
“The American people are sick and tired of subsidizing the greed of some of the largest and most profitable corporations in this country,” Sanders said during his almost three-minute speech. “They are also outraged by the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in America, as demonstrated by the CEO of Walmart making a thousand times more than the average Walmart employee.”
Sanders went on to urge Walmart to pay all of its employees a livable wage, “and that living wage is $15 an hour,” the senator asserted.
After Sanders’ speech at the event, the Republican Party of Arkansas issued the following statement on their social media platforms in response:
“We know Sen. Bernie Sanders doesn’t give two hoots about Arkansas. But if he did, putting thousands of Arkansan’s jobs in jeopardy to earn brownie points with his Big Labor buddies certainly won’t help him here.”
Before the meeting, Walmart’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Dan Bartlett, tweeted a pre-rebuke of Senator Sanders, noting Walmart’s contributions in the amount of veterans hired, taxes paid, and their plan to reduce supply chain emissions by one billion metric tons over the next ten years.
Despite the apparent back and forth, a portion of the prepared message of Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon was not in direct contrast with the self-described Democratic-Socialist, Sanders. McMillon utilized his time by not only emphasizing Walmart’s accomplishments, but also urging the United States Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.
“It’s clear by our actions and those of other companies that the federal minimum wage is lagging behind,” McMillon said.
The federal minimum wage is currently at $7.25 per hour. Walmart has recently increased the minimum hourly rate for their associates to $11 per hour.
When he was told about McMillon’s comments in an interview after his speech, Sen. Sanders was quoted by CNN as saying, “Well, that’s fine. [Congressional Democrats] are working on it.”