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Walmart Statement by the Rev. Baird
Statement by the Rev. Rhett D. Baird
On Behalf of the New York City Pension Systems
Made at the Wal-Mark Corporation Annual Meeting
Fayetteville, Arkansas; June 7, 2002
Mr. Chairman, fellow shareholders, my name is Rhett Baird, I am a minister ordained in the Unitarian Universalist tradition and have served our local congregation here in Fayetteville for the past eight years. I am here today on behalf of the New York City Comptroller, William Thompson, and the New York City pension systems to present the funds’ resolution on global human rights standards. I am honored to stand before you today and introduce this resolution because my own personal values are consistent with the values which embrace the intent of this resolution.
Over the last several years, reports of human rights abuses in the overseas subsidiaries and suppliers of some U.S.-based corporations have led to an increased public awareness of the problems of child labor, “sweatshop” conditions, and the denial of labor rights in U.S. corporate overseas operations. Human rights violations in these operations have, in many cases, engendered negative publicity, public protests, and loss of consumer confidence—all of which can have a negative impact on shareholder value.
The New York City pension funds, holders of over 10,822,516 shares, have submitted a proposal which calls on Wal-Mart to commit to the implementation of a code of conduct based on the core labor standards promulgated by the United Nations’ International Labor Organization and to commit to a program of outside, independent monitoring of the company’s compliance with these standards.
The company’s stated commitment to respect human rights in its overseas operations, is a welcome first step. However, experience has shown that very often, self-monitored corporate codes of conduct have not been adequately enforced, and have resulted in little or no substantive change on the ground. We strongly believe that on-site, independent monitoring of compliance is essential if any corporate code of conduct is to have credibility with the public. Wal-Mart should commit itself to such a program, and therefore, on behalf of the New York City pension systems, I submit the resolution on global labor human rights standards, found in your proxy materials. Thank you.