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Walmart opposes adding panic buttons to stores

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Retail giant Walmart says it is against putting panic buttons in stores – an item shoppers in New York may soon find on shelves. On Friday, the New York State Senate passed legislation requiring most big retail chains, including Walmart, to put panic buttons in easy-to-access locations in their stores, or to provide staffers with wearable, or mobile-phone-activated, panic buttons.
But Walmart’s top corporate affairs officer told Reuters that panic buttons are likely to trigger false alarms.

“Eight out of 10 times somebody thinks something’s going on, there’s actually not,” Dan Bartlett, Walmart executive vice president of corporate affairs, told Reuters.

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Walmart had hired a chief safety officer “to look at overall physical safety” of its store workers, Bartlett said. Walmart’s new chief safety officer was hired on April 12, a Walmart spokesperson said.

Bartlett said it would be impractical for Walmart to put panic buttons in every store. The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart operates 4,700 stores, including 98 in New York state.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has 10 days to sign the legislation into law or veto it. If she takes no action in 10 days, the Retail Worker Safety Act automatically becomes state law.

The legislation would also require most retailers with 10 or more employees to provide violence prevention and safety training to their staff.

Walmart’s workforce is not unionized. However, one major retail union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents more than 100,000 workers across the United States, has pushed for the bill to become law in New York.

At Walmart’s annual meeting at its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, this week, some Walmart store workers who hold Walmart shares put forth their own safety-related proposal to Walmart shareholders. The proposal would have required Walmart to conduct an independent review of its policies and practices on workplace safety and violence. It was defeated in a shareholder vote.

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