Main Banner

NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

NY State Comptroller DiNapoli Calls on Companies to Adopt Better Workers' Rights Policies

Shareholder Proposals Filed at Walmart, CVS, Netflix, DoorDash and Gannett

February 7, 2023

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced a series of shareholder proposals filed at several major companies on workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. The proposals were filed with Walmart Inc., CVS Pharmacy Inc., Netflix Inc., DoorDash Inc. and Gannett Co.

“Freedom of association and collective bargaining are fundamental human rights,” DiNapoli said. “The right to join unions, without interference, and collectively bargain can help improve workers’ health and safety, as well as increase their training, skills and productivity. It’s in the companies’ own interests, and in the long-term interests of shareholders, to ensure workers are treated fairly.”

All of the proposals were co-filed with New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, on behalf of the New York City Retirement Systems, with the exception of Gannett.

“Respecting workers’ rights to organize – and not interfering when they do – should be the standard expected of any responsible employer,” Lander said. “Aggressive anti-union practices that spill into the press, violate labor laws, or contradict a company’s own policies can pose reputational and financial risks for businesses. We’re proud to make that standard clear to more of the country’s major employers, as reflected in the New York City Retirement Systems’ agreement with Apple and ongoing efforts with Starbucks. We are pleased to join Comptroller DiNapoli and the New York State Common Retirement Fund to emphasize that the long-term value is dependent on the wellbeing of a company’s workforce, and we expect portfolio companies to act accordingly.”

For Walmart and CVS, the proposals urge each company’s board of directors to commission and oversee an independent, third-party assessment of the company’s adherence to its stated commitment to workers’ freedom of association and collective bargaining rights. Those commitments follow the International Labor Organization’s Core Labor Standards and are written in each company’s human rights statement.

The proposals for the other companies ask their boards to adopt and publicly disclose a policy on their commitment to respect their employees’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining in their operations.

DiNapoli noted each company has faced numerous labor and workers’ rights controversies.

  • Since 2001, the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has received approximately 250 complaints filed by Walmart employees alleging the company used disciplinary actions and retaliation as well as coercive statements and actions to stop employees from unionizing.
  • In 2018, CVS was accused of attempting to undermine the validity of the election results at a Brooklyn store with the NLRB, delaying negotiations of a collective bargaining agreement. In 2022, CVS was accused of interfering in union elections in California, leading to an administrative law judge ruling for a new election.
  • DoorDash has faced criticism related to its human capital management and workforce practices, which includes independent contractors who have advocated for better compensation and benefits, and the ability to negotiate with DoorDash on policies like the setting of rates and tips.
  • Netflix has faced numerous controversies that have led to protests, staged walkouts, demands regarding the company’s culture, and poor overall stock performance, which directly impacts employee compensation.
  • Gannett has been accused of stalling on bargaining with unionized newsrooms and not bargaining in good faith. Amid news that additional employees have considered organizing unions, Gannett allegedly threatened to lay off workers, cut benefits, force employees to work unpaid overtime and take unpaid leave.

With changing labor trends related to the pandemic, DiNapoli has continued to focus on the impact of the growing labor movement, workers’ efforts to unionize, and the demand for higher wages and benefits. He believes companies need to rethink their approaches toward their workforces, as the ability to establish and maintain constructive relationships with workers is a hallmark of a company with a sound, sustainable and profitable long-term strategy.

About the New York State Common Retirement Fund

The New York State Common Retirement Fund is one of the largest public pension funds in the United States. The Fund holds and invests the assets of the New York State and Local Retirement System on behalf of more than one million state and local government employees and retirees and their beneficiaries. The Fund has consistently been ranked as one of the best managed and best funded plans in the nation.