Why Were Yahoo Shareholders Asking Mayer About Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart Strike 2

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer faced questions from Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) shareholders during Yahoo’s annual shareholder meeting in Santa Clara, California, on June 25.

Appointed as a member of Wal-Mart’s board in April last year, Mayer refused to address the issues raised by the assembly of Wal-Mart critics.“This morning’s business is about Yahoo, which is separate from Wal-Mart,” Mayer said.

Prior to the Yahoo meeting, about 30 Wal-Mart employees arrived at Yahoo’s Sunnyvale offices on June 24 hoping to voice concerns directly to Mayer.  Five activists were arrested during what became a protest against Wal-Mart.

“Are you going to bring Yahoo values to Wal-Mart or Wal-Mart values to Yahoo?” asked one attendee who said she had been fired by Wal-Mart for participating in a demonstration against the company. “Right now, Wal-Mart reflects badly on you and on Yahoo,” she added.

One of the questioners at Yahoo’s meeting was a representative from the Bricklayers and Trowel Trades International Pension Plan, which had also participated in the protest. “I was proud to finally have an advocate on Wal-Mart’s board…My early feelings of hope have not been realized,” she said. “In the last year you (Mayer) have repeatedly ignored our requests to hear our concerns,” she added.

According to the Nation, a number of speakers at the Yahoo meeting urged Mayer to do something about dismissals of Wal-Mart workers who joined the strike against the retail giant. Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg responded in an email stating that, “our decision had everything to do with what was a violation of attendance policy and nothing to do with a specific protest.”

As a member of Wal-Mart’s board, Mayer’s appointment as Yahoo’s CEO has made her an attractive target for Wal-Mart criticism. Earlier this month Mayer attended Wal-Mart’s shareholder meeting in Arkansas where investor representatives criticized the retail giant’s employment and clothes sourcing policies.

During the meeting, Wal-Mart said it aimed to devise its own e-commerce business in order to catch up with its major competitor Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). The Financial Times reported that Mayer was awarded total pay of $36.6 million for her first six months as Yahoo’s CEO and during this time attempted to improve the working environment at the Internet company. As a result, Yahoo’s job applications have risen significantly in comparison to last year.

However, Mayer recently caused significant uproar when she ended a policy that enabled Yahoo employees to work remotely. The change made many workers unhappy as it forced them to work at the company’s office. Mayer indicated that the policy adjustment might not be permanent during Yahoo’s annual meeting. A webcast of Yahoo’s annual meeting is now available to view on the Investor Relations website.

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