Washington D.C. tries to stop Wal-Mart from ruining its city

Walmart_Save_Money_Live_Crappy-copyWal-Mart’s plot for world domination  has hit a snag, as its plan to open six of its low-price, low-wage, high-exploitation retail stores in the nation’s capital is meeting resistance from local lawmakers.

The D.C. Council introduced a bill that would, according to The Washington Post, require  “retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and operating in spaces 75,000 square feet or larger to pay their employees no less than $12.50 an hour. The city’s minimum wage is $8.25.” This obviously doesn’t fit Wal-Mart’s wildly successful business model of only paying their employees enough to be able to afford to shop at Wal-Mart.

It’s still possible the corporation will be able to get away with business as usual; Mayor Vincent Gray has hinted he may veto this legislation, as did Chicago’s former Mayor Richard M. Daley when similar legislation hit his desk years ago. “The cancellation of three planned stores will surely set us back,” Gray said in statement. “I strongly urge the Council to consider whether this legislation will actually promote strong economic development in the District and expand job opportunities for District residents.”

I strongly urge Gray to rethink his position. In a still-recovering economy (hell, in any economy), Wal-Mart’s low-wage jobs do more harm than good. Workers deserve a living-wage, and a company as profitable as Wal-Mart can afford that and more. The government can’t continue to be complicit in their abhorrent business practices.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon. As a freelance writer, social commentator, and mental health advocate his work has been seen online in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, Salon, Al Jazeera English, Gawker, The Guardian, Ebony.com, Huffington Post, The Root, and The Grio.

Mychal Denzel Smith is a Knobler Fellow at The Nation Institute and contributing writer for The Nation Magazine, as well as columnist for Feministing.com and Salon.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/dave1/ Dave

    The conflict is a little bit more nuanced than what you’re reporting on here.

    Wal-Mart was originally scheduled to have 6 stores in DC. The price of allowing it to enter DC was forcing it to anchor a large development project at Skyland, chock-full of much-needed affordable housing in an area of the city in Ward 7 that really, really needs more development, both retail and housing. Of course, Wal-Mart started construction on the three stores more likely to quickly make a profit, and it will probably keep those stores even if Gray vetoes the living wage bill.

    So what we’ve got here is, Wal-Mart is using the living wage bill as an excuse to drop out of a development it never wanted to anchor but accepted in return for allowing it to build the other stores. It will go ahead and build the stores currently under construction. So Gray’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. He can let the bill pass, and then we will have three Wal-Marts in areas of the city that do not need them and where they will hurt local businesses, rather than stop retail leakage to MD. Sure, he’ll get a living wage at those locations. But it’s still Wal-Mart, and 12.50/hr with no benefits is not exactly a good job in DC, and the money going into those locations will benefit the local economy less than the money currently going into local stores in those areas.

    Or Gray could veto the bill, and get the Skyland development. Then it’s a bunch of crappy jobs, but at least he gets some great affordable housing and can stop some retail leakage in Wards 5 and 7, where people often go to PG county to shop, which is bad for a whole bunch of reasons (environment, economy, jobs, etc). If I were mayor, sure, I’d let the bill pass, but it’s not an ideal situation, and I can certainly understand a veto. I honestly hope he vetoes it, Wal-Mart builds the Skyland development, and then they pass a living wage bill once we’ve got the affordable housing and other retail in place, and Wal-Mart can then decide if they want to leave or stay. But that’s not the choice here, since the Council passed the bill yesterday, not a year from now.

    • http://feministing.com/members/decius/ Dan

      Wal-Mart would have a valid legal case against the city if they planned to get concessions for entry and, after the new stores came in, passed further restrictions.

      Why not increase the minimum wage for everyone, or raise taxes and provide a tax break for locally-sourced businesses? Why are minimum-wage no benefit Wal-Mart jobs worse than other minimum-wage jobs?