Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘Wal Mart’ Category

Help the Women of Walmart Today

Friday, December 1st, 2017

My mom died without me by her side because my boss at Walmart wouldn’t let me leave work.

In 2015, my mom had a stroke, so I upended my life in North Carolina, and moved to Texas with my son to take care of her. When I found a new job, I explained I was there to look after my dying mom, so I would need a flexible schedule to take care of her.

Walmart supervisors ignored my requests time and again, and when I got the call that she was about to die, my boss told me I’d be fired if I left.So she died without me there, as I listened on the phone and cried.Never Alone

My story isn’t unique: you can walk into any Walmart store and hear stories just like mine. Being a Walmart worker means being expected to put up with poverty pay, inflexible schedules, and disrespect from bosses.For the majority of store associates like me, the regular folks who stack the shelves and work the registers, working at Walmart often means being punished when we need to be there for our families. I wasn’t allowed to leave work to be with my mom when she died, and I know of other Walmart workers who can tell similar stories. One Walmart associate I know had to go back to work with week old newborn at home, only to find her hours and pay got slashed when she had a baby.But even if you already know how badly Walmart treats workers like me, you might be still be shopping at Walmart without even realizing it.Bad Behavior By Any Name

Earlier this year, to try and win over the kind of customers you don’t often see in big-box stores, Walmart bought several online brands including ModCloth, Moosejaw, and Bonobos.Walmart is trying hard to sell more online to compete with Amazon, but they’re having a hard time. I think it’s because too many people know about Walmart mistreat workers.That’s why Walmart has kept pretty quiet about taking over these brands. If you go to the ModCloth website, for example, they tell you all about how the site was started by high school sweethearts in their college dorm, but they never mention that ModCloth is in fact part of Walmart.What you do find is a lot of talk about women’s empowerment, and they make a point of featuring plus-size models in their photos. ModCloth definitely wants you to think that they’re a women-friendly company.But how can you be women-friendly when you’re owned by a company like Walmart that treats women workers like me so badly?Taking Back Walmart

On Cyber Monday, I joined other Walmart workers to launch our #ByeModCloth campaign. We’ve collected signatures from 100,000 former ModCloth customers and allies who aren’t falling for Walmart’s tricks.Ours is a message Walmart won’t be able to ignore, and it’s not too late for you to add your name. I’m a member of OUR Walmart, a community of Walmart associates, and together we’ve talked to hundreds of former ModCloth customers about what it’s like to work at Walmart. Most of these shoppers had no idea the company had been bought by Walmart. When we told them, they were outraged and promised to stop shopping there.One even told us finding out Walmart owns ModCloth was “adult feminist version of finding out Santa Claus isn’t real.”I’ve got bad news: Santa Claus isn’t real. And Walmart really does own ModCloth.That’s why ModCloth’s talk of being great for women is just that – all talk. ModCloth is owned by Walmart, and Walmart’s policies of low pay, unfair schedules, and no paid leave are hurting hundreds of thousands of women like me.Help the Women of Walmart

Even though most Walmart associates are women, most senior execs are men. They won’t reveal if they pay men more than women, but a study in 2003 found that the average Walmart man makes $5200 more than the average Walmart woman. No wonder there have been over 2,000 claims filed at Walmart alleging bias in pay and promotions.  It’s a disgrace, but the sad truth is that Walmart doesn’t listen to workers like me. They chew us up and spit us out, and never treat the work we do for them with respect. But they do listen to their customers, especially the customers of the new online brands they’re pinning their hopes on. That means if you’re a ModCloth customer, then Walmart is listening to you, and Walmart workers need you to use your voice.So here’s what I’m asking every one of you to do: keep your eyes open, and know where your money goes. If you’re a customer of ModCloth, now you know that you were shopping at Walmart, and you can help us now.If you think workers shouldn’t be treated the way I was treated, sign our #ByeModCloth pledge. And if anyone from their customer service team asks you why, tell them that the women of Walmart sent you.

This blog was originally published at OurFuture.org on December 1, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tiffaney Meredith is a member of the OUR Walmart community of Walmart associates.

Wal-Mart Killed At Least 400,000 Jobs In A Dozen Years, While The Waltons Got Richer

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

jonathan-tasiniIf you want to know why a political revolution is necessary (and why the status quo’s most intellectually fraudulent campaign in recent Democratic primaries is such a threat to working people), you need only check out this new report from our friends at the Economic Policy Institute. Wal-Mart (that would be the board the status quo candidate sat on without uttering a peep while millions of women were discriminated against and the Waltons pursued their middle-class killing business plan) essentially obliterated, conservatively, 400,000 jobs in a decade or so.

Here’s how:

This paper updates earlier work (Scott 2007) to provide a conservative estimate of how many jobs have likely been displaced by Chinese imports entering the country through Wal-Mart:

  • Chinese imports entering through Wal-Mart in 2013 likely totaled at least $49.1 billion and the combined effect of imports from and exports to China conducted through Wal-Mart likely accounted for 15.3 percent of the growth of the total U.S. goods trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

  • The Wal-Mart-based trade deficit with China alone eliminated or displaced over 400,000 U.S. jobs between 2001 and 2013.

  • The manufacturing sector and its workers have been hardest hit by the growth of Wal-Mart’s imports. Wal-Mart’s increased trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013 eliminated 314,500 manufacturing jobs, 75.7 percent of the jobs lost from Wal-Mart’s trade deficit. These job losses are particularly destructive because jobs in the manufacturing sector pay higher wages and provide better benefits than most other industries, especially for workers with less than a college education.

  • Wal-Mart has announced plans to create opportunities for American manufacturing by “investing in American jobs.” To date, very few actual U.S. jobs have been created by this program, and since 2001, the growing Wal-Mart trade deficit with China has displaced more than 100 U.S. jobs for every actual or promised job created through this program.

China has achieved its rapidly growing trade surpluses by manipulating its currency: it invests hundreds of billions of dollars per year in U.S. Treasury bills, other government securities, and private foreign assets to bid up the value of the dollar and other currencies and thereby lower the cost of its exports to the United States and other countries. China has also repressed the labor rights of its workers and suppressed their wages, making its products artificially cheap and further subsidizing its exports. Wal-Mart has aided China’s abuse of labor rights and its violations of internationally recognized norms of fair trade by providing a vast and ever-expanding conduit for the distribution of artificially cheap and subsidized Chinese exports to the United States. [emphasis added]

And:

Since Wal-Mart’s exports to China were negligible, the rapid growth of its imports had a proportionately bigger impact on the U.S. trade deficit and job losses than overall U.S. trade flows with China (since the rest of U.S. trade with China does include significant U.S. exports to that country). On average, each of the 4,835 stores Wal-Mart operated in the United States in fiscal 2014 (Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 2014) was responsible for the loss of about 86 U.S. jobs due to the growth of Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2013.

So, if for some reason, you shop at Wal-Mart, think about each of those workers whose job you helped eliminate by supporting this scar on the economy. While middle-class jobs disappear and people become even more impoverished, forcing them to shop at Wal-Mart, the Waltons became the richest family in the country, with $149 billion in wealth for six people.

Be my guest: continue to believe the fraudulent rhetoric coming from the status quo. Continue to live in a dream world and ignore the reality, and the record, continue to embrace the most amazing individual cognitive dissonance imaginable and fawn over a fraud in complete ignorance of the facts laid out.

And, then, don’t be surprised and weep when Wal-Mart grows, poverty widens and nothing changes.

This blog originally appeared in Working Life on December 9, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: The author’s name is Jonathan Tasini. Some basics: I’m a political/organizing/economic strategist. President of the Economic Future Group, a consultancy that has worked in a couple of dozen countries on five continents over the past 20 years; my goal is to find the “white spaces” that need filling, the places to make connections and create projects to enhance the great work many people do to advance a better world. I’m also publisher/editor of Working Life. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out more than a decade ago, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays (slacker), with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995). I’m currently working on two news books.

The Senator from Walmart Thinks a $10.10 Minimum Wage is 'Too Much, Too Fast'

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Laura ClawsonWill conservative Democrats never learn? Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is facing a tough re-election battle in Arkansas, which is both a low-income state and the home of Walmart. So what position is he taking when it comes to raising the minimum wage, which would pull many of his constituents out of poverty but require Walmart to pay higher wages? If you guessed “he’d find a way to be mealymouthed and spineless,” give yourself a gold star.

On the one hand, Pryor kinda sorta supports a state ballot initiative that would raise the Arkansas minimum wage to a whopping $8.50 an hour over three years. (The state currently has a $6.25 minimum wage on the books, below the federal level, so that’s the initiative’s starting point.) On the other hand, Pryor opposes raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10:

“I know $10.10 still isn’t a whole lot of money, but I think it’s too much, too fast,” Pryor, who is seeking a third Senate term, said in an interview at the Capitol. “I’m not supportive of that.”

Seriously. It’s not much, but it’s too much for the poors, apparently. That’s $21,000 a year for a full-time worker, enough to get a family of three out of poverty, but leaving them well within food stamp eligibility.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of Arkansas voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 while just 38 percent are opposed, according to a Public Policy Polling poll, with 47 percent saying they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported raising the minimum wage. Maybe that’s why Pryor went way out on a limb to say raising the state minimum wage all the way to $8.50 over three years is “a pretty reasonable approach.” But he should look at another question in that poll: 73 percent agreed with the statement that “Someone who works full-time should be paid enough to keep them out of poverty.” That’s your winning argument, and it points to a wage well above $8.50. Except that apparently Walmart’s money (they’re Pryor’s sixth-largest campaign donor) speaks more loudly—and Pryor doesn’t seem to get that being Walmart’s lapdog won’t make them go to bat for him over a Republican.

This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on February 7, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.

Workers say Walmart's 'Extra Day's Pay' for Thanksgiving is a Sham

Monday, November 25th, 2013

Laura ClawsonTo make it sound less problematic that its stores are opening at 6 pm on Thanksgiving, Walmart has been telling anyone who’ll listen that it’s giving “an extra day’s pay” to those working the holiday. Awesome! Now tell me what you mean by “day.”

No, silly, Walmart doesn’t mean everyone who works Thanksgiving gets eight hours of extra pay. They get the average of the hours they’ve worked over the previous two weeks. And that’s where some Walmart workers say the problems lie:

Gertz and other Wal-Mart workers say their hours are cut prior to the holidays, so their average daily wage also goes down.Last year, Gertz’s hours were cut by five hours a week before the holiday. Her hours were also cut in the weeks after the holiday, which bit into her paychecks further. She said some associates in her store had their hours slashed from 40 per week to 24 in the weeks after.

Raise your hand if this sounds like something Walmart wouldn’t do. [A handful of Walmart spokespeople raise their hands, alone.] Because that’s Walmart: consistently adding the insult of pretending they’re really generous to the injury of poverty wages and poor treatment. Not unlike pretending it’s a kind, caring thing to hold a food drive for their workers who can’t afford Thanksgiving dinner on Walmart pay.

10:17 AM PT: Walmart points out that the worker quoted in this story didn’t work Thanksgiving last year. It continues to not rebut the claim that it cuts workers’ hours ahead of giving them “extra” pay.

This article was originally printed in Daily Kos on November 22, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos.

Could You Live Off $25k a Year Like Most Walmart Workers? No, You Couldn't.

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Last month, Walmart CEO Bill Simon revealed rather cluelessly that the vast majority of Walmart workers, as many as 825,000 in the United States, earn less than $25,000 a year. The sum is so low the average worker for the country’s biggest employer is struggling to make ends meet. By matching its low prices with insultingly low wages, Walmart forces taxpayers to subsidize its workforce through social safety net programs.

Making Change at Walmart is running a new series that highlights how some of the retailer’s employees are scraping by on Walmart wages. Here are three of the stories they have shared so far:

Anthony Goytia: The 31-year-old father of three makes about $12,000 a year and relies upon MediCal and food stamps. Some of his teeth were removed because he couldn’t afford the dental work to save them. “I don’t need cable or a big house, but I shouldn’t have to resort to selling my plasma and participating in medical trials to be able to feed my kids,” Goytia said. “I have to live payday loan to payday loan.”

Patricia Locks: A 48-year-old single mother, who makes $19,000 a year, relies on low-income housing, food banks and food stamps to get by. She recently was forced to file for bankruptcy. “It’s depressing and scary. No one who works for one of the world’s largest and wealthiest companies should have to live like this,” said Locks. “I don’t think it’s asking too much to earn enough so I don’t have to rely on food banks and other assistance to survive. And that’s why I am going to keep fighting, because I want a better life for me and my daughter.”

John Paul Ashton: The 31-year-old father of two makes $20,000 a year and also relies upon food stamps and food banks. He walks 45 minutes to work with shoes that have holes in them. “When I first started at Walmart, I was told that it was a place where I could grow and have opportunities. I soon discovered that was not the case,” said Ashton. “People take being able to buy lunch for granted. I don’t need a fancy job, but what I do need is a job that allows me to provide for my family, speak up about working conditions and needing better wages without fear of retaliation, and hopefully have more than $2 in my bank account after I pay my bills.”’

More stories of Walmart workers scraping by on less than $25,000 per year are scheduled to be released every week at MakingChangeAtWalmart.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on November 1, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

Dozens Of Walmart Workers Walk Out On Strike In Miami

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Bryce Covert

In the latest labor action against Walmart, dozens of workers reportedly walked out on the job on Friday to go on strike. Workers demanded higher wages and better hours, and one worker told Salon that he estimated 80 people took part in the action.

The strike came after protests in 15 different cities in September against the country’s largest private employer. But while those included rallies and pickets in protest of alleged firings of striking workers, they did not include workers who were on strike. Friday’s action was the first work stoppage since June. While past actions were organized by OUR Walmart and supported by unions, this appeared to be independently organized.

Workers have alleged that they are routinely disciplined and fired for trying to organize for better hours and wages. In August, 10 current and former workers were arrested at a rally outside the company’s headquarters. Labor groups allege that five workers were fired after strikes in June while others were suspended or disciplined. The company has admitted that it threatens thatvacation time or other benefits could disappear when workers ask about the right to unionize.

Walmart, for its part, told the Huffington Post that employees don’t get full schedules because they aren’t available all the time and has denied that it is a minimum wage employer. It has previously said of the protests that “the opinions being expressed aren’t representative of the vast majority of the people who work for us.”

A recent survey found that over half of Walmart locations are only hiring temporary workers, not full-time positions. Meanwhile, while the company claims full-time workers make $12.78 an hour on average, another report saysthe average worker makes $8.81, 28 percent of the pay at other large retailers. Its workers make so little that they have to rely on public benefits to get by, with workers at a single location consuming around $1 million worth in food stamps, Medicaid, and other programs. The company has also stood staunchly against living wage bills in multiple cities, with the latest victory in Washington, DC, where after it threatened to pull plans to open stores Mayor Vince Gray (D)vetoed a bill.

Yet the store’s sales have recently suffered, in part from widespread customer dissatisfaction with its inability to keep shelves stocked, likely thanks to not hiring enough full-time workers. Other stores follow a different model, with Costco paying workers $21.96 an hour and seeing profits rise 19 percent in the first quarter of the year. WinCo, a small Idaho-based grocery store chain, beats Walmart’s prices while paying more than $11 an hour and offering generous benefits.

Perpetually low wages aren’t unique to the retail sector, and they have also sparked widespread protests and strikes in the fast food industry, which have spread to nearly 60 cities.

This article was originally printed in ThinkProgress on October 21, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman.

Would raising the minimum wage help Walmart?

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Laura ClawsonWould a higher minimum wage be good for business at Walmart? Many experts say so—after all, a higher minimum wage would give many Walmart customers a little more disposable incometo spend at the store:

David Cooper, an economic analyst with the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, agrees with Demos’s Ruetschlin that the sluggish economic recovery means a boost in the minimum wage could push low-income workers to spend more, and in many cases they’d spend that money at low-priced outlets like Walmart.“If suddenly all these low-wage workers have more income, they are likely to spend that money right away,” Cooper said. “If these retailers want strong, stable sustainable growth in the U.S. economy, then they should also want strong, stable increases in wages to their employees.” […]

The data linking an increase in wages to a rise in consumer spending — particularly at a specific retail outlet — is a bit thin, but there’s “very strong anecdotal evidence in support of that claim,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden.

Walmart definitely knows that when its customers don’t have money, business suffers; the company’s chief financial officer recently said, to explain a drop in U.S. sales, that “The consumer doesn’t quite have the discretionary income, or they’re hesitant to spend what they do have.” And in fact, in the past, when the minimum wage has gotten too far below the poverty line, a Walmart CEO has explicitly said that was a problem: “The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times … Our customers simply don’t have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.”

A yacht store is unlikely to see much of a boost from an increase in the minimum wage, in other words, but Walmart, where people go for cheap, basic necessities, will do better. Walmart’s opposition to paying an actual living wage, one that doesn’t force workers to rely on food stamps and Medicaid, is well known. But if Congress doesn’t act and raise the minimum wage, we might get back to a point where Walmart admits it would benefit from an increase. Which would, more than anything, be a sign of how embarrassingly bad Congress is—can you imagine lagging behind Walmart on wage issues?

Join Making Change at Walmart and Daily Kos in telling Walmart and the Waltons to respect their employees and pay a real wage.

This article originally appeared on Daily Kos Labor on September 4, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author:  Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos

Twelve arrested in protest of Walmart firings and retaliation against activists

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Laura ClawsonBeginning shortly after the early June strike by around 100 Walmart workers, 20 of the strikers were fired and another 50 were disciplined in retaliation; Walmart basically treated their absences as if they’d been playing hooky rather than engaging in legally protected concerted activity. Now, in a protest against that retaliation, 9 former and one current Walmart workers and two allies have been arrested in planned acts of civil disobedience outside a Washington, D.C., Walmart office Thursday afternoon. The workers are setting a deadline of Labor Day for Walmart to reinstate fired workers and raise wages or face an escalation of worker activism.

Walmart wants to turn this into an argument about labor law, claiming that the workers’ actions constitute “intermittent strikes” that aren’t protected by law. However, Josh Eidelson reports:

Asked in June about Walmart claims that workers were fired for threatening customer service by violating attendance rules, former Obama-appointed NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman said, “the case law doesn’t sustain that as a valid defense” against the charge of illegally punishing strikers. As for the lack of legal protection for “intermittent strikes,” Liebman told The Nation, “I think it would be hard on the facts so far to say that the conduct constitutes intermittent striking.”

By turning this into a dispute about the specifics of labor law, Walmart can both drag things out for months or years before potentially being forced to reinstate the workers and can try to shift the conversation from Walmart’s own rampant abuse of workers and damage to the economy. They’d like to shift the conversation from the workers’ voices, while letting workers who haven’t yet joined the protests and strikes know the cost of doing so:

Another of the fired workers arrested today, Brandon Garrett, yesterday told The Nationthat his termination had taken a toll in his Baker, Louisiana, store: “When we came back from striking and we wasn’t fired right away, even more associates wanted to join the organization. But I guess Walmart got a sense of that, and when they terminated me, they kind of scared a lot of them off.” Now, said Garrett, “they’re still behind us,” but “a lot of them are scared to be retaliated against. So that’s another reason I’m standing up like I am.”

These efforts to change the subject and silence workers are why it’s important to hear what the workers had to say at Thursday’s protest:

Jovani ‘Virtually impossible to go to school with #walmart schedules. We should all be able to pursue our dreams’ #walmartstrikers
— @ForRespect

Pam from CA ‘I am here taking a stand for every Associate too afraid to speak out.’ #walmartstrikers
— @ForRespect

Lucas, gay, out and proud, faced discrimination at #walmart and was fired for speaking out. ‘Today I take a stand.’
— @ForRespect

Tell Walmart and the Walton family to respect workers and pay a real wage.

 

This article originally appeared on Daily Kos on August 22, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author:  Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos

Walmart: Portrait of a Job Killer

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Image: Mike HallWhenever communities, lawmakers or activists question or criticize Walmart for the way it treats workers—the low-pay, the stores’ impact on the communities—the retail giant pulls out a well-worn script with a simple message, “Walmart creates jobs and if there’s one thing this economy needs, it’s more jobs.”

Setting aside the quality of the jobs for another day, is Walmart telling the truth? Sure doesn’t look like it, according to Salon’s Kathleen Geier, who matches Walmart’s claims against in-depth research from universities, economists, government studies and other sources. Here’s what she finds:

Contrary to Walmart’s self-glorifying mythology, the retailer is anything but a job creator—in fact, it is a huge job killer. Not only that, destroying jobs is an essential component of Walmart’s anti-worker business model.

She cites a study led by Economist David Neumark—who, by the way, has written against raising the minimum wage in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

Using data from more than 3,000 counties, [the] results show that when a Walmart store opens, it kills an average 150 retail jobs at the county level, with each Walmart worker replacing about 1.4 retail workers. These results are robust under a variety of models and tests.

2009 study by Loyola University found that the opening of a Chicago Walmart store was “a wash,” destroying as many jobs as it created. According to the report, “There is no evidence that Wal-Mart sparked any significant net growth in economic activity or employment in the area.” Says Geier:

In short, when Walmart comes to town, it doesn’t “create” anything. All it does is put mom-and-pop stores out of business.

Walmart’s job-killing spree doesn’t stop at the city limits. The remains of once good jobs are scattered throughout Walmart’s entire supply chain. Its cut-throat drive for lower prices, writes Geier, squeezes suppliers to deliver goods at the lowest possible prices and that means cutting labor costs—aka jobs.

Read the full article.

Walmart’s using that specious jobs argument in its fight to block a living wage law in Washington,D.C. Find out more here.

Article originally appeared on AFL-CIO NOW  on August 6, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author:  Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log.  He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety

Will Washington, D.C., be a national example for fighting Walmart?

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Laura ClawsonAs we wait for Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray to decide whether to sign or veto the Large Retailer Accountability Act passed by the city council, business lobby groups are insisting that DC’s push to make big box stores pay a living wage of $12.50 an hour is an isolated occurrence, not a sign of things to come:

“This fight in D.C. is being driven by local D.C. politics more than a national agenda,” David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation, told POLITICO.Justin Wilson of the business-funded Center for Union Facts said he believes no national movement will come from the D.C. battle. “I don’t foresee (a national movement) happening,” Wilson said.

Right, and the fight that kept Walmart out of Brooklyn last year was driven by local New York City politics, and the fight to keep Walmart out of Chinatown in Los Angeles is driven by local Los Angeles politics, and the failed effort—passed by the city council and vetoed by then-Mayor Richard Daley—to institute a similar large retailer living wage in Chicago as Walmart was moving in was driven by local Chicago politics. Point being, as Walmart tries to move into cities, the politics are different from its traditional suburban and rural locations. So the whole “just an isolated thing, not going to be replicated anywhere” insistence rings a little hollow.

That’s not to say Walmart doesn’t have the power to push itself into many cities, as it did Chicago. But the opposition is a lot more organized. And with good reason. Trying to move into D.C., Walmart went on a charm offensive, donating millions of dollars to local charities and talking up the great jobs it would allegedly create. But:

[Living wage organizer Mike] Wilson says that activists and community leaders met with Wal-Mart representatives soon after the company announced its intentions to move into D.C., but that it became clear Wal-Mart had no interest in negotiating any kind of binding agreement concerning workers’ wages or benefits. Wal-Mart may have told a group of church leaders it would pay $13 an hour, but on other occasions, the company cited its average pay of $12.78 to activists—a number that made Wilson and others suspicious. That figure, which excludes part-time workers and includes department managers, ishighly disputed.

Walmart can’t be trusted, so Walmart faces a fight. In fact, Walmart drives wages down for workers at other retailers in areas where Walmart stores open, so a $12.50 minimum wage at Walmart and other large retailers in Washington, D.C., would help protect wages at existing smaller stores.

Tell Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray that his city’s big box workers deserve a living wage.

This article was originally posted on The Daily Kos on July 16th 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.

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