Target: Jim, John, Rob, Alice, and Helen Walton, heirs of the founders of Walmart
Goal: Urge the billionaire Walton family to provide safe working environment for Walmart employees in Bangladesh
The Walton family, who inherited their wealth from the founders of Walmart, are reputably the richest family in the world. Together they control almost half of the company, and are collectively worth 93 billion dollars. Yet when a former sweatshop worker recently rained on the Walmart Annual Meeting parade by voicing the difficult truth of harmful working conditions in Bangladesh, the Walmart board was unaffected. Urge the Walton family to use their money to protect the workers this company is responsible for.
The evening’s killjoy, Kalpona Akter, is a courageous activist who grew up working in a garment factory for eight years beginning when she was only a child. More than knowledgeable of sweatshop exploitation and dangerous working conditions, Akter was chosen to deliver a shareholder proposal at the meeting. If passed, the proposal would permit a small percentage of Walmart shareholders to gather for a special meeting intended to mitigate the dangers of poor working environments, as such conditions have been fatal in the past and are easily preventable.
One such incident occurred in 2012 when a large fire in the Tazreen Fashion factory claimed the lives of 117 and injured many more. The factory, which employed over 1,500 workers, produced clothing for Walmart. After thorough investigations, the company’s commissioned labor rights auditors still refuse to address the hazards responsible for worker fatalities.
In her speech, Akter prompted the Walton family, specifically Mr. Rob Walton, for help. “I am sure you are aware that fixing these buildings would cost just a tiny fraction of your family’s wealth, so I implore you to please help us. You have the power to do this very easily. Don’t you agree that the factories where Walmart products are made should be safe for the workers?”
In response to her words, Walmart’s board recommended that shareholders vote against Akter’s proposal because its adoption would, in their words, “not be in the best interests of our company or its shareholders.”
It is time to stop valuing money over people. The Walton family heirs could easily prevent future fatalities by donating a mere one percent of the dividends paid to them towards fixing unsafe working environments, and the refusal to address these incidents reflects poorly on Walmart and its shareholders. Walmart is one of few major importers that still snubs the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, and they have long made promises to improve working conditions in garment factories without delivering results.
The safety of factory workers is not optional based on the best interests of wealthy people. Urge the Walton family to act now for the good of those who daily labor for their company.
Dear Jim, John, Rob, Alice, and Helen Walton, heirs of the founders of Walmart,
At the Walmart Annual Meeting, a former sweatshop worker named Kalpona Akter spoke to you about the importance of maintaining safe working conditions for factory employees. After the tragic 2012 fire in a Bangladesh factory, where deaths could have been prevented by adequate safety standards, your Walmart auditors failed to address the serious issues that killed hundreds of employees. Not only did they refuse to acknowledge a problem, but they claim any expenditures to increase safety would be far too costly to the company. The latter is untrue.
Providing safe working standards for laborers is not optional. It is disgraceful that Walmart refuses to aid international factories because doing so would not be in the best interests of the company or its shareholders. Please do not allow materialism to define your company, and please pledge to assist factories in Bangladesh with monetary donations that will fix all dangerous working environments. You have the influence and wealth to save the lives of others.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: philebersole.wordpress.com