Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

The Wal-Mart Whine: Corporate giant balks at D.C. law requiring a livable wage


Wal-Mart recently announced that if Washington, D.C. enacts a stronger minimum wage, they will stop all planning for three new stores and reconsider ongoing construction on three other centers.

That’s got to be great news for Costco, which already has a store in D.C. and pays its employees well above the national minimum wage.

The Washington D.C. city council has voted in favor of raising the city’s minimum wage to a living wage of $12.50 an hour in stores with over 75,000 square feet of floor space, and over $1 billion in corporate sales. The measure is now waiting on the Mayor’s signature.

Why is this measure even necessary? Because the low wages Wal-Mart pays are impossible for people to survive on. Wal-Mart’s employees are forced to rely on social services like Medicaid meaning Wal-Mart can pocket bigger profits, while taxpayers make up the difference. In 2012, Wal-Mart’s labor practices cost taxpayers $5, 815 per employee despite bringing in $15.7 billion in profits.

In the run-up to the Washington, D.C. vote, Wal-Mart’s regional manager Alex Barron mentioned numerous conversations with community organizations about the need for good paying jobs. He neglected to note Wal-Mart would actually lobby for the opposite.

When communities are subsidizing corporate profits, to a tune of at least $904, 542 for a 300-person store, how can companies like Wal-Mart honestly promise “good paying jobs” and “economic vitality” in places they push to build stores?

This isn’t a new tactic for Wal-Mart. In Tacoma, they notoriously out maneuvered the city council by filing their application hours before a temporary moratorium on all big-box stores, designed to protect local merchants, took effect. Despite public outcry and city council frustrations, the Tacoma Wal-Mart opened July 17.

Considering ongoing national worker strikes at Wal-Marts around the country, D.C. should stand with workers and taxpayers and hold Wal-Mart responsible for providing a living-wage and fair labor practices.

By EOI Intern Elissa Goss

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