WASHINGTON, DC, May 31 — Urging Walmart to start acting like a responsible adult as it nears its 50thbirthday, hundreds of Walmart associates, community activists, and city residents and workers marched through downtown Washington to the company’s DC offices. There, they held a rally to support Walmart associates seeking respect on the job, demanding that the company be held accountable for its Mexican bribery scandal and cover-up, and calling for an investigation into whether DC public officials are “in bed” with the company.
“The largest retailer in the world and the largest employer in America should not only follow the law — it should act ethically and morally,” said Rev. Edwin Jones, pastor of the Living Faith Baptist Church and a leader of the Respect DC coalition.
“We haven’t seen that yet,” Rev. Jones charged. “Walmart hasn’t even met with the DC community, much less negotiated an enforceable community benefits agreement. So we need to ask: Who is Walmart buying and at what cost? Who is it luring to bed? Especially when our mayor and City Council are embroiled in their own ethical scandals.”
Rev. Jones and parade marchers called on Mayor Gray and the Council to immediately halt all permitting for Walmart’s six proposed DC stores until an independent investigation is conducted into the political and charitable giving of Walmart and its developers.
“Hold everyone accountable — Walmart, its developers and our public officials,” Rev. Jones said. “Then and only then, let’s decide whether Walmart would benefit our neighbors and DC workers, or whether we need to take a different path to raising the standard of living and quality of life in our communities throughout the District of Columbia.”
Noting that Walmart’s desire to open stores in DC reflects a shift from its suburban and rural big box emphasis, DC Metro Labor Council President Joslyn Williams said, “If Walmart wants to reinvent itself as an urban grocery provider, then let it reinvent its employment policies. Let Walmart show that for the first time in its history, it can enter a new market and raise wages and living standards across the board.
“Let Walmart sign an enforceable community benefits agreement” Williams said, “guaranteeing that it pays all of its DC associates a living wage, provides health and retirement security, creates a ladder to the middle class, offers full-time jobs and career paths, and accepts the right of its associates to empower themselves through collective bargaining if they choose.”
The Walmart associates experience first-hand the lack of respect management shows its associates. They suffer from Walmart’s broken promises on profit-sharing, benefits, scheduling and staffing. They see Walmart shareholders raking in billions of dollars thanks to their hard work, while they’re left relying on food stamps to feed their families and Medicaid for their health care. That’s why groups like RespectDC are doing everything in their power to reform and reshape Walmart so that its next 50 years are far greater than its first 50. It’s time to unite with OUR Walmart across the country to lift up all retail workers into the middle class again.