From the Union Leader.
In a concerted effort to raise the standard of living and keep small businesses alive in Washington, D.C., a broad coalition of workers, community activists and small business owners are joining forces to block plans by Walmart to locate four stores in the city unless the company changes its practices.
The Coalition for Living Wages and Healthy Communities is calling for establishment of a Covenant for Community Benefits under which Walmart could only operate in the District of Columbia if it behaved responsibly.
Wherever Walmart locates, it acts as a parasite in the community. It drives locally-based businesses out of existence, costing more jobs than it creates. Its low wages drive down the community’s economic standing. New Walmarts also burden taxpayers by pocketing subsidies and having Medicaid pay for their workers’ health care. Washington, D.C., needs a Walmart like it needs another pothole.
In November, Walmart announced plans to open four 80,000 to 120,000 square foot stores in Washington, D.C. Residents, workers and businesspeople want a good neighbor, not a company notorious for paying its workers sub-poverty wages and keeping them at part-time status, providing few benefits, and facing numerous lawsuits alleging discrimination and labor law violations. They are especially outraged that Walmart may seek local tax subsidies.
Healthy Communities has made clear that it will only accept the presence of Walmart if it agrees to a Covenant for Community Benefits, providing that it will:
- Provide full-time, living wage jobs with benefits.
- Ensure that a majority of its workers are local residents.
- Fund a training program.
- Guarantee equal pay and promotional opportunities for women.
- Pay its fair share of taxes.
- Take other measures to benefit the community.
In addition, Local 400 and the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL- CIO are urging the District of Columbia City Council to pass the Employment Stimulus Act, which would require that any development project receiving a tax subsidy of $200,000 or more hire local residents, train workers, and build the facility under a Project Labor Agreement. They are also lobbying the Council to amend the FEED DC Act so that retailers must abide by Washington, D.C.’s Living
Wage Statute to be eligible for tax subsidies under the program, which is supposed to expand the availability of healthy, affordable food in underserved neighborhoods.
The people of Washington, D.C., need jobs and access to nutritious food, but they must be jobs in which workers are treated with dignity and lifted out of poverty into the middle class. Those aren’t the kind of jobs Walmart has created up to now, but they are what Giant, Safeway and Shoppers provide. These are the kind of retailers and employers we need more of.
We’ve already seen a Safeway close in Landover after a Walmart opened next door. We can’t let this happen in Washington, D.C., or anywhere else.
VICTORY IN LA PLATA
Walmart has a store in La Plata, Md., but when the company wanted to move to a larger location, it ran into an unexpected roadblock: the people.
After Local 400 members from the area led the charge, the La Plata Town Council voted four to one to deny Walmart permission to move and expand. Council members were particularly outraged that Walmart intended to keep pos- session of its current store to block competitors from occupying the location.
Local 400 commends the Council members for standing up to the world’s largest retailer in order to stand up for good jobs, local businesses and healthy competition. Special thanks go to Charles County Commissioner Reuben Collins for his strong support.