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Rev. William Barber II speaks in El Paso. Photo: Luke E. Montavon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rev. William Barber II of the Poor People’s Campaign is joining a growing movement to press Walmart for employee representation on the company’s board, Axios reports.

Driving the news: Barber, a leading figure on the Christian left, tells Axios that in remarks to shareholders this week, he'll tie the fate of workers who fell ill or died from COVID-19 to the company's sick leave policies.

Why it matters: Employee representation is a concept gaining traction among Washington lawmakers. Walmart is the world's largest retailer and the nation's biggest company by revenue.

Details: Barber is set on Wednesday to address Walmart shareholders virtually during an annual meeting, and he'll ask them to create a “Pandemic Workforce Advisory Council” made up of hourly workers to advise the board. A newspaper and digital ad campaign is running between now and the meeting.

  • Shareholders are set to vote on a proposal by Cynthia Murray, a 20-year Walmart associate, to create the council and give employees more say in some corporate decisions.
  • Barber is attending at the request of the employee group United for Respect.

What they're saying: In prepared remarks reviewed by Axios, Barber says there are "perhaps hundreds of your workers who are not alive today because of this vicious coronavirus that was allowed to spread through your stores, largely in secret, as your workers feared for their lives every day."

  • He says even more suffered because "they were too poor to stay home from work, too afraid of retaliation to get the time off."
  • Barber tells Axios that Walmart workers should receive a larger portion of the company's wealth, earn at least $15 an hour and "need to sit in places of power, where people are making decisions that will impact their lives for a long time."

The other side: Walmart, through a spokesperson, tells Axios that associates unable to work or uncomfortable working due to COVID-19 have been encouraged to stay home.

The intrigue: Walmart tried to get SEC relief so it could exclude the proposal from the shareholder meeting, but the agency declined.

  • The company said it works with third-party advisory councils shaping its thinking in areas including its human rights statement — and that in the past year it raised wages; improved benefits, health and safety measures, and joined efforts involving racial equity.
  • "We believe our workforce strategy is designed to promote upward mobility for our diverse workforce and is consistent with our broader goals and initiatives regarding racial equity," the company said.

Yes, but: Colorado State Treasurer Dave Young, who supports the Walmart proposal, said the state suffered massive losses and costs because Walmart employees got sick and suffered from low pay.

  • "I'm not dismissing the work that Walmart has attempted to do already, but I just think that this proposal actually adds value and gives a different perspective that may actually reveal some strategies that they haven't even considered."

Don't forget: Walmart has a cadre of corporate social responsibility programs that have all become more of its corporate narrative in recent years, Axios' Worth Sparkman reports.

  • Through its Walmart Foundation, the company donated $1.4 billion to many of those causes in fiscal 2020.

Go deeper

Updated 15 mins ago - Politics & Policy

1 dead, 2 injured after pickup truck hits Pride spectators in Florida

A driver in a pickup truck hit spectators at a Pride festival in Wilton Manors, Florida, killing a man and wounding two other people Saturday, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said, per the SunSentinel.

The big picture: The incident at the Wilton Manors Stonewall Parade and Festival, which Trantalis described as a "deliberate attack," was one of two involving a pickup truck hitting a crowd on Saturday, with several cyclists left critically wounded in Arizona.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

In photos: Brazilians rally against Bolsonaro as COVID deaths top 500,000

A June 19 protest in São Paulo, Brazil, against the administration of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has railed against precautionary health measures despite the soaring COVID-19 death rate and cases. Photo: Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images

Demonstrators took to the streets in at least 22 of Brazil’s 26 states to protest President Jair Bolsonaro's handling of the pandemic — as deaths from COVID-19 in the country surged past 500,000 Saturday, per AP.

The big picture: Brazil has the world's second-highest coronavirus death toll and third-highest number of cases. Only 12% of the country's population has been vaccinated against the virus, AP notes.

Major companies ask Colorado residents not to apply for remote positions

Denver in 2011. Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Major companies have said in recent job postings that Colorado residents are ineligible to apply for certain remote positions because a new state law requires businesses to disclose the expected salary or pay range for positions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: The law, which went into effect in January, is meant to help close the gender wage gap and to promote wage transparency for employees, but companies have said Coloradans need not apply to avoid disclosing the information.