Fayetteville, Ark. – Walmart celebrated its store associates and flaunted its financial performance and social responsibility at the company’s annual shareholder meeting last week.
As per tradition, the corporate pep rally was peppered with celebrity appearances, which this year included performances by Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend and master of ceremonies Hugh Jackman.
Actor Tom Cruise also made a special appearance, to tout Walmart’s commitment to women, the environment, food banks, and healthful eating choices.
But the performances and homilies, and the raucous cheers of 14,000 hand-picked associates at the Bud Walton arena, here, belied growing dissent among shareholders and workers. A number of major pension plans and proxy advisory firms did not support the re-election of board members including chairman Rob Walton and CEO Mike Duke, and offered proposals in response to the spreading Mexico bribery scandal and the factory fire and building collapse in Bangladesh.
The proposals were opposed by the board as not being “in the best interests of our company or its shareholders” and were readily voted down. The Walton family, scions of Walmart founder Sam Walton, are the company’s majority shareholders, collectively controlling more than half of all outstanding shares.
For his part, CEO Duke credited Walmart’s associates for the company’s financial strength, and spoke of the career opportunities it affords them.
“No company provides more opportunity to more people to go from where they are to where they want to be than Walmart,” he said.