Dozens of white-collar Walmart employees are expected to walk out Wednesday afternoon to protest the retailer’s gun policies after shootings at two company stores left 24 people dead.
Employees in the company’s San Bruno, California, office say they want the world’s largest retailer to stop selling guns and discontinue donations to politicians who receive funding from the National Rifle Association. Walmart sells guns in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores, making it one of the nation’s largest retailers of firearms and ammunition.
The call to action comes after a gunman killed 22 people and wounded dozens of others at a Walmart store in El Paso on Saturday. Days earlier, a Walmart employee fatally shot two coworkers at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.
“There’s an intense irony that Walmart continues to sell guns despite the constant shootings in its stores,” Kate Kesner, an e-commerce employee in San Bruno who is helping organize the protest, said in an interview.
Employees at a Portland office also are expected to walk out at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Organizers also started a Change.org petition calling on company executives to stop selling firearms. As of Wednesday morning it had more than 15,800 signatures.
A spokesman for Walmart said the company was encouraging workers to voice their opinions in other ways.
“There are more effective channels such as email or leadership conversations,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said. “The vast majority of our associates who want to share their views are taking advantage of those options.”
The efforts are part of a growing wave of worker protests against corporate policies at some of the nation’s largest tech and retail firms. Employees at Amazon, Microsoft and Google have called on management to stop selling facial-recognition technology and other services to law enforcement agencies and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Jeff Bezos,the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
In June, hundreds of Wayfair employees walked out to protest the sale of $200,000 worth of furniture to a Texas detention center housing migrant children.
Walmart’s store employees have long called on the company to improve pay, benefits and scheduling practices. But this week’s efforts are among the first by corporate employees designed to pressure the company to change its practices. Walmart is the nation’s largest employer, with 1.5 million workers.
In addition to Wednesday’s walkout, employees encouraged their colleagues to call in sick on Tuesday in protest of the company’s gun policies, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.
Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, has tightened its gun policies over the years. It stopped selling handguns in 1993 and phased out assault-style rifles in 2015. Last year, it raised the minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, two weeks after 17 students and teachers died in a high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
On Tuesday, chief executive Doug McMillon said in an Instagram post that the company would “work to understand the many important issues arising from El Paso and Southaven as well as those raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence.”
“We’ll be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses,” he said.
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