Staff at Walmart are fighting for better sick pay and more of a voice after an employee was found dead in a store in Arkansas.

Janikka Perry, 38, was found dead in the bathroom of the store in January.

The mother and grandmother said she felt ill during the shift but continued to work.

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Her sister, Nicoshe James, wrote on Medium her sister was probably ” “scared to call off and then scared to leave work in the middle of her shift.”

Janikka Perry was discovered unresponsive in the bathroom of an Arkansas Walmart on Sunday, January 16.

“That’s what it’s like working at Walmart,” James wrote.

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James is a former Walmart employee and she and current employees are urging the company to implement a plan that ensures sick employees receive time off and that associates have a voice in the company.

It’s the latest example of workers demanding more—and one that associates say is critical for the future of both workers and the company.

In pre-recorded testimony, James addressed the company’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday, June 1 to discuss her sister and the proposal.

On Thursday, June 2, advocates gathered in Bentonville, Arkansas, to remember Perry.

Walmart disputes the claims.

Jimmy Carter, a Walmart spokesperson, said: “We express our deep condolences to Ms. Perry’s family and friends. We can all agree that Ms. Perry was a valued teammate and well-liked by those in the Walmart family who knew her,”

 “We disagree with how the circumstances have been characterized publicly. Out of respect for everyone involved, we are not going to publicly discuss details further.

James continued: “It’s been four months and it feels like it happened yesterday.

And it could happen again, James said: “Another person, another family will have to endure the pain that my family is having to endure right now.”

Cyndi Murray has been a Walmart employee for 21 years.

She described how understaffing at the store where she worked in South Carolina overburdened her and other employees.

To address this and other issues, Murray’s worker advocacy group, United for Respect, has been calling for years for Walmart associates to have a voice on the company’s board of directors, which steers corporate decisions.

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One request was for the company to form a pandemic task force comprised of associates and executives responsible for developing the company’s policies.

Murray said: “We were essential workers, or so they wanted to call us during the pandemic, but they didn’t treat us in that manner.”

Perry’s death, she believes, could have been avoided.

Murray’s resolution to include workers on the board has become part of the PERRY policy, which stands for paid sick leave, the equal voice on the job, a real emergency plan, time to rest and recover, and yearly shareholder reviews.

Currently, Murray said that the company offers PTO. Any sick days must be taken as PTO.

Carter, the Walmart spokesperson, confirmed, saying: “Walmart’s PTO policy combines paid sick leave, vacation time, personal time and holiday time into one category, giving associates flexibility in how to use their paid time off.”

“Through March 31, Walmart maintained a leave policy that allowed for Covid-related absences without consequences and we continue to encourage associates who are not feeling well to stay home,” he added.

Tammy McGill, who worked at Walmart from 2008 to 2021, said she was “so sorry” about what happened to Janikka.

“It’s either your health or work,” McGill said. “And that’s not something that we should have to decide on because our health should be more important than any dollar that’s being made in these stores.”

For James, it’s imperative that everyone moving forward should be able to work in a safe workplace.

The loss of Perry, James said, is the most significant loss of her life.

Things like paid sick leave and time to rest and recovery would help ensure that ill workers can feel comfortable staying home.

“I just want them to understand that change does need to come so that what happens to my sister doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she said.

Source: Business Insider

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