There are no Walmart stores in San Francisco, yet four members of the company’s board of directors are Bay Area residents. So May 29, a group of workers assembled outside the San Francisco residence of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, a Walmart director.
The workers were gearing up to join roughly 100 members of OUR Walmart in going on strike and caravanning to Bentonville, AR, where the retailer will hold its annual shareholder meeting June 7. The group’s concerns include giving employees the option of working full-time, and providing a level of wages and benefits that ensures employees aren’t forced to rely on government assistance to get by.
Dominic Ware, who said he works part-time at a Walmart in San Leandro and earns $8.65 an hour, stays with his grandmother, since his paycheck alone won’t cover rent and provide for his daughter. He estimated that roughly half his earnings go directly back to Walmart, where he buys groceries and other items.
The protest outside Mayer’s penthouse was timed to coincide with the start of the strike and caravan, but some organizers with San Francisco’s chapter of Jobs with Justice were there to call attention to Walmart’s ties to a factory building that collapsed in Bangladesh last month, killing 1,100 workers. Now, activists with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity are calling on Walmart to sign onto a legally binding safety accord to ensure higher levels of maintenance at facilities similar to Rana Plaza.
Mayer isn’t the only Bay Area figure steering the nation’s largest private employer. Other board members include billionaire Jim Breyer, an initial investor in Facebook and cofounder of venture capital firm Accel Partners; Gregory Penner, son-in-law of Walmart board chair Rob Walton and an investor in dating website eHarmony; and Aida Alvarez, who chairs the Latino Community Foundation of San Francisco.