Wal-mart plays hardball with DC politicians over vote on a retail worker wage bill
When I got involved (ANC4B Large Tract Review Report on Walmart, 5/2011) in the large tract review process concerning the site for a Walmart store on the 5900 block of Georgia Avenue NW (about 3/4 mile from my house so I couldn't ignore it), I wrote about Walmart's very contentious practices focused on getting their way.
Specifically, the City of San Diego passed a very good Big Box Retail Review Ordinance, and Walmart organized a referendum campaign to overturn the legislation--which sustained a veto by the Mayor. But because of the cost of running a special election and the budgetary problems, the City Council caved and overturned the legislation, and Walmart then proceeded with their plans there.
See "City Council Votes To Repeal Big-Box Ordinance" from San Diego Channel 10 News and this report on the bill ("Ordinance to Protect Small and Neighborhood Businesses"), but I haven't been able to find the exact legislation.
In DC, Walmart rolled up politician support before they made public their plans to build 4 stores, and later 2 more, for a total of 6, making it very difficult to oppose them. See the great City Paper article, "The Selling of Walmart: How the world's biggest retailer won over D.C. without a fight."
The real problem in DC planning and zoning regulations is that they aren't very tough when it comes to providing for mitigation for possible problems. See the past blog entry "Lessons from Walmart's foray into Washington, DC" which delineates various necessary changes that were indicated based on the initial entry of Walmart into the city.
In the fallout after, unions got City Council to put forward legislation requiring relatively high wages for employees of certain large types of large retailers, including Walmart and Target, but exempting unionized grocery stores.
I disagreed with that legislation ("DC's proposed legislation on large retailers is misguided"), not because I think big box retailers are great, but because instead of focusing on the real gaps in DC planning practices related to big box retailers, the unions and the Council focused solely on wage issues.
The final vote on the legislation is tomorrow, and Walmart announced that if the legislation passes, they won't proceed with the 3 stores that are planned but haven't commenced construction. See "Wal-Mart will nix three D.C. projects if living wage bill passes" from the Washington Business Journal.
In talking with Suzanne about the general issue over the weekend, I mentioned my previous writings about how Walmart makes "business decisions" and that their decision to pay women less than men is no different than their decision to curry favor with health interests by expanding their provision of healthier foods or with environmentalists on their various energy reduction interests. They don't make these decisions because of values or ethics, but because it makes sense business-wise on whatever criteria that they are using to make the decision.
And Suzanne pointed out that Walmart's practice of systematically paying women less, reducing people's hours to lower benefits, etc., means that we need to make the choice not to shop there, to demonstrate that we don't support their anti-worker practices, despite the low prices or their environmental practices, etc.
I am probably fine with Walmart walking away, because I find many of their business practices to be anathema. But others will disagree.
If because as is increasingly likely that Mayor Gray will not run for re-election, because of illegal campaign activities in the 2010 election, I could see him vetoing the legislation, because stores in retail under-served areas, especially the two East of the river store locations designed to serve Wards 7 and 8. That would set the stage for Council, to overturn the veto.