Labor Claims a Victory After Walmart Investors Pull Out

WalmartAs Walmart continues to dismiss a mounting labor movement in its stores as marginal and baseless, some large Walmart investors don't appear convinced. In one of the biggest victories yet for labor activists targeting Walmart, two large European pension funds have announced that they would no longer invest in the world's largest retailer.

Dutch pension managers PGGM and Mn Services declared in quick succession this week that they would divest from Walmart, claiming that the company does not treat its employees in accordance with international standards of freedom of association, and has failed to respond to their concerns.

"We respect when someone buys or sells our shares. That's an individual decision," Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told AOL Jobs, adding over email that "our associates have chosen to remain union-free."

It was real progress that "people are challenging this company to be different," said Dan Schlademan, the director of Making Change at Walmart, the union-backed campaign seeking to improve working conditions at the retailer, adding the companies are doing "what the board of directors should be doing: calling this company out."

For five years, PGGM, Mn Services and other European investors have tried to pressure Walmart to adopt the standards of the International Labour Organization. In a media release Monday, PGGM described Walmart's efforts to block workers from unionizing as "contrary to fundamental principles and rights at work" and "to the codes Walmart has compiled for its own suppliers."


More: Walmart Worker: Why I Love My Job And Can't Fathom The Protests


Last year, the Netherlands' largest pension fund ABP also divested from Walmart for failing to comply with the United Nations' Global Compact, which outlines values related to labor, human rights, corruption, and the environment. In 2006, Norway's public pension fund sold all its Walmart shares, citing "serious/systematic violations of human rights and labor rights."

"We were very concerned that there wasn't sufficient oversight from the board," says Saskia van den Dool, a senior adviser for responsible investment at PGGM, which held 2.76 million shares of Walmart as of March 31, according to Reuters. "It left Walmart operating on the edges of the law."

"The final straw"
Walmart is famously hostile to unions, reportedly flying in teams of union-busters to stores at just a hint of union activity. This May, Walmart posted a job listing online for a director of Labor Relations, tasked with "assess[ing] vulnerability to union messaging in market," and "support[ing] continued union-free workplace ..."

When the company recently urged Walmart to again accept international standards, "they basically said this is not something we are going to consider," Van den Dool said. "This was basically the final straw that broke the camel's back."

Walmart made a similar point to Nm Services, stating that ILO standards applied to countries, not companies. "That is correct," says Kris Douma, head of responsible investment at the firm. "But we only want to invest in companies with those standards."


More: Fired Walmart Workers Ask Marissa Mayer For Help



An unfortunate ending
OUR Walmart, the group behind the Making Change campaign, claims it is not seeking to unionize the retailer, but is pushing to improve hours, pay and benefits for its workers. Many of Walmart's 1.5 million employees earn just above the minimum wage, and rely on food stamps and other government programs to get by. Labor activists also accuse Walmart of retaliating against workers who seek to organize. (One of the group's protests, in L.A. last June, is pictured above.) According to OUR Walmart, 11 workers involved in the movement were fired last month alone.

But Schlademan isn't running a victory lap. "We sometimes wish that rather than pulling out they would use that voice to challenge their companies," he added about investors selling their shares. "But we understand that some of these companies have principles."

PGGM emphasized the many attempts they'd made to reach an agreement with Walmart before severing ties. "It's unfortunate that such a thing is even necessary," explained van den Dool. "It's not an objective for us to exclude a company. It's a conclusion after many attempts to engage in a constructive dialogue."


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237 Comments

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Stan Broniszewski

Walmart sucks wet farts. No real price difference, they have no fresh fish department, all Chinese made garbage, even their management seem like eighth grade dropouts (refuse to open more registers when the line is thirty customers long). Screw Walmart - I buy NOTHING from them (apart from frozen Mac & Cheese)

August 13 2013 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HEIDIFIDO

bring they Products that are made in Foreign Countries back home , help some here get a decent paying Job and People will but made in america
the way it is now lowincome workers need to get Foodstamps tp survive and those Foddstamps come out of your Taxes not a good situation !!
Bring the Jobs back home and make corporate America pay there Taxes the Taxes the are now hiding in foreign countries

July 10 2013 at 1:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Taylormade4905

Also, WE THE PEOPLE need to run monsanto OUT OF AMERICA, and bring back the FAMILY FARMERS. The food from FAMILY FARMS is safer and better for people than the "FRANKEN FOOD" produced by this company.

July 09 2013 at 5:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Taylormade4905's comment
chapython

Are you willing to pay the higher prices for your food?

July 09 2013 at 6:28 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chapython's comment
mypathoflight

Yes.

July 09 2013 at 11:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
Taylormade4905

Put ALL big box stores out of business, and bring back the Mom and Pop stores. It will put more people to work, and help pull AMERICA out of a weak work force. And, CLOSE the southern border, we do not need cheap ILLEGAL mexican workers. WE DO NEED MORE WORK FOR AMERICAN WORKERS.

July 09 2013 at 5:26 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Taylormade4905's comment
Ellie

Nothing against the Mom & Pop stores, but where on earth do you think that closing all the "big box" stores and bringing back the Mom & Pop stores is going to put more people to work, there is absolutely no logic to your post.

July 09 2013 at 5:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dgosbee

If you could do that, it would drive cost up significantly. The Mom and Pops are not able to compete based on their comparitavly poor economies of scale.

July 09 2013 at 5:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
arenadood

Like this is going to hurt Wallyworld, the protestors need to dream on.

July 09 2013 at 4:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
billducks

The ulitimate EXAMPLE from europe for running nations into the ground. How is that "Buddy can spare me a trillion for socialist unions ?

July 09 2013 at 3:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to billducks's comment
poohbee4

well man, u can continue to pay for them,and let corp. america off the hook ....

July 09 2013 at 3:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
tmduke55221

Let me see if I understand this, the Unions who say they care about all workers state until wal-mart does what they want the unions will continue to attempt to shut wal-mart down. Who is this really going to hurt? The low income workers who are getting an income at this point, the investors who know wal-mart is still working but the investment companies pull out hurting the people who have put there money in or is it the Walton Family and all the big time Wal-mart players? If the union gets its way and wal-mart would rather close than go union will union look at this as a victory or a loss because nearly a million people will become unemployed?

July 09 2013 at 2:29 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to tmduke55221's comment
dtmatcri

No one is being forced to work at Wal Mart. If their employees think they are worth more money then they should find jobs elsewhere.

July 09 2013 at 12:20 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to dtmatcri's comment
Sharon

What workers?? Every time I go to Wal-Mart lately there are 2 or 3 registers open and lines in the clothing isles. They, after all, need the millions they make for the people at the top of the food chain cause the people who sweat every day in the stores aren't getting it for sure. They need welfare with the Wal-Mart wages. And check the exporation dates on your food items. I bought dip there and it was expired. They have gone down the toilet the last two years. I am gonna start shopping at Target now. Wal-mart is not getting any more of my money. I suggest u think about it too.

July 09 2013 at 1:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bkayecase

Walmart is I believe thee largest employer that has the most employees needing government assistance to exist. Shopping there is supported the CEO's while our government supports many of it's employees. I have not stepped foot in one for 8 or more years, never will. Check out six degrees of walmart.com to see where they spend their money politically. They could raise all their employees wages on the millions they spend trying to keep them down.

July 09 2013 at 12:52 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bkayecase's comment
liontwin33

Thanks for telling it like it is. You hit the nail on the head!

July 09 2013 at 2:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to liontwin33's comment
rwilson4

IF they gave each employee $16 per year rather than spend 24 million to keep unions out that would be ALMOST 31 cents per week. MY son started an entry level job with Safeway at barely over minimum wage with no insurance for two years. He left and went to WalMart for $.90 /hr more with company paid insurance in 90 days and still Safeway supporters claimed that non-union WalMart was taking advantage of its workers and unfairly competing. Someone must have hit you on the head

July 09 2013 at 8:21 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

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