Wal-Mart held a shareholder meeting on Friday (June 7) that featured addresses from Tom Cruise and Hugh Jackman, plus performances by Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson and John Legend.
“I’ve wanted to come here for quite some time, actually, because the culture you have here is like no other. I truly admire your company. [It’s] a role model for how business can address some of the biggest issues facing our world,” Cruise said in his remarks.
He also praised Wal-Mart for “using its size and scale to improve women’s lives around the world.’
Cruise’s remarks come on the heels of the mega-retailer’s refusal to sign the binding
safety agreement for workers that make its garments in factories in
foreign countries. One such factory recently collapsed, killing over 1100
people in Bangladesh.
Tsehai Almaz, a Wal-Mart employee in Los Angeles, recently organized a strike with 100 other employees in response to what they say are poverty-level wages and poor working conditions. Almaz has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission saying she has faced sex-based discrimination in the workplace.
Almaz tells MSNBC that Cruise’s comments were “out of touch and didn’t really tell the truth about what happens on a day-to-day basis.”
Kalpona Akter, former child laborer who is now an advocate for safe working environments and fair pay, also spoke at the shareholder meeting, urging Wal-Mart to sign the safety commitment.
“Wal-Mart PR said [it has] an alternative agreement, but not a single meaningful detail has been provided,” says Akter.
Wal-Mart spokesperson Dianna Gee tells MSNBC that Wal-Mart does not pay celebrities nor does it write the guests’ speeches for the annual shareholder meeting. They do cover hotel and travel expenses.
Past Wal-Mart shareholder meeting performers or speakers include Justin Timberlake, Will Smith and Mariah Carey.