Janikka Perry was a dependable and loyal employee at the Walmart located at 4550 East McCain Blvd in North Little Rock. She had previously had a medical emergency and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Management was aware of her preexisting condition.
On Sunday, January 16th, she came to work despite not feeling well. She approached a manager complaining of not feeling well and having chest pains, but despite COVID policy, she was encouraged to return to work instead of being asked to take time off.
By 9:54pm, she had developed a bad cough and went into the bathroom accompanied by another female worker who then left the bathroom. She was having a heart attack, but her phone had no signal reception from the restroom.
Multiple 911 calls were made without the calls reaching dispatchers. A male maintenance worker heard somebody calling for help but it wasn’t reported to management.
Multiple customers went to the bathroom but didn’t report a woman lying on the floor, and the hourly bathroom checks were not done. She wasn’t discovered by employees until 11:30pm.
The county coroner was called to remove her body, but the family was not contacted until she was pronounced dead at 12:30am.
Despite this being a traumatic experience for the family, the company continues to mishandle the incident, including being told that the corporate office would be in contact with them and then no effort being made. When her siblings came to Walmart to request to see the video footage of her last moments, they were initially rejected and the managers deleted her employee account in the presence of the grieving family.
Walmart has a system where if somebody calls in or only works a partial shift, the time off is deducted from any of their vacation time and they get a point on their record. If more than five points are accrued in a given year, the employee is terminated. Points don’t reset until six months are served without any points. For employees with chronic medical conditions or employees who need to take their vacation days for family leave, this creates a work environment that encourages employees to come to work even when they are at risk of injury or infecting others.
According to WalMart’s corporate website, the company made a total of $572.8 billion dollars in 2021 alone. One of the ways that Walmart turns this revenue into profit is by underpaying their workers and relying on taxpayers to make up the difference in lack of benefits and care.
They are one of the top four companies whose workers receive SNAP and Medicaid benefits.
In the wake of Janikka Perry’s unfortunate death, her family is calling to the community at large to organize and mobilize here in the home of Walmart to pressure the corporation to create a more comprehensive and progressive sick leave and emergency policy. They have reached out to United for Respect, Arkansas Community Organizations, Central Arkansas DSA, and other groups to help them build a coordinated campaign to see that Walmart change its policies to create a safer and more transparent environment for their workers.
Since January, numerous other Walmart employees have come forward with stories of being fired for hospitalizations, employees dying in the stores, and getting disciplinary points being added after securing approved sick leave.
On the 16th of April, there will be a candle light vigil at 7 pm on the sidewalks outside of the McCain Blvd Walmart in North Little Rock. All are invited to attend to pay their respects for a fallen worker and to start discussions as to what we as a community can do to ensure that the company create a safer and more accountable workplace.
The family, with the help of legal advisors and organizers, have drafted the Janikka Perry policy which they hope with your help to press the corporate giant to adopt. It is the list of demands which we will bring to Walmart on the sixteenth, and it goes as follows:
Paid Sick Leave
Every person who works at Walmart must be entitled to 2 weeks of paid sick leave, no questions asked.
Equal Voice on the Job
Associates are the experts and must be a part of the decision-making process – Establish a Pandemic Advisory Council made up of employees who work at Walmart stores.
Real Emergency Plan
Walmart needs to establish an emergency plan – developed, implemented, and monitored by safety teams made up of Walmart associates – with clear protocols on what to do in case of an emergency.
Rest & Recover
When an employee needs time off to rest or recover, they need support, not punishment. Walmart employees work hard to accrue their time off, they should be able to use it free of intimidation and disciplinary action.
Yearly Reviews with Shareholders
Associates have a vested interest in ensuring the corporation is running smoothly, safely, and successfully for all. They must be a part of the conversation with Walmart’s shareholders.