Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led the entire Massachusetts delegation in seeking information about how Walmart CEO Doug McMillon is addressing the safety and protection of workers in Walmart stores in Massachusetts, and what changes the company is implementing to ensure there are no additional outbreaks in stores across the Commonwealth.
An employee at the Walmart store in Worcester tested positive for COVID-19 on April 8. In the next three weeks, 22 more store employees tested positive, but Walmart did not close the store for cleaning to protect store employees. The City of Worcester ordered Walmart to close the store on April 29, 2020 - to date, more than 80 employees at the store have tested positive. At the Quincy store, 11 employees have confirmed cases and one employee, Yok Yen Lee, has died. Walmart closed the Quincy store voluntarily but not until after Ms. Lee passed away.
"These outbreaks occurred in the context of multiple worker-reported safety concerns at Walmart stores," the Members wrote in their letter. According to a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration, Walmart workers -- including in Massachusetts -- have shared that the company is not regularly informing employees when a co-worker is diagnosed, not closing stores for cleaning and disinfecting after COVID-19 diagnoses and exposures, not enforcing social distancing in stores that can have up to 900 customers in them at a time, and not providing sufficient paid sick leave.
The Members also raised concerns about recent comments by Walmart CEO McMillon that providing hazard pay to Walmart employees during this pandemic, "diminishes why our people are coming to work," and that workers are "coming to work because they want to serve." The Members wrote: "These employees serve their communities in many ways, and their work at Walmart is their job, not a charitable contribution to the company's bottom line."
The Members asked for answers on what changes Walmart will make to ensure the health and lives of employees by no later than May 21. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) signed the letter.
In March, Senator Warren called on Walmart to adopt paid sick leave policy for every employee and take all necessary health and safety precautions, including providing additional cleaning supplies and protective equipment, ensuring the staffing levels needed to increase the frequency of cleaning, seeking expert guidance on best practices to minimize the spread of infection, and ensuring workers have adequate safety protections.