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Posted at 7:35 PM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Welcoming Wal-Mart — on our terms

By Morris Shearin, Washington

As a 22-year resident of the District, I have seen the city’s job market ebb and flow and the unemployment rate peak and dip. Through it all, I have watched a significant segment of our working population struggle to make ends meet.

Given that experience, the news that Wal-Mart wants to locate four stores in the District leaves me with mixed emotions. I am always elated at the prospect of meaningful job opportunities in the District. But the confluence of challenging economic times and Wal-Mart’s less-than-stellar track record as an employer presents a moral imperative for me, as a faith leader, to seek assurances from the company on behalf of the least, the last and the left out.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to ensure that Wal-Mart establishes itself in the District with a clear and unequivocal commitment to the working class. We can accomplish this by negotiating a “community benefits agreement” setting forth certain conditions ensuring that Wal-Mart will be a good neighbor and employer in our city. Long before any store ever opens, for instance, Wal-Mart could put in writing that it will provide its 800 or so D.C. workers with a living wage.

At a minimum, the community benefits agreement should establish that:

  • Wal-Mart will offer full-time, living-wage jobs with benefits.

  • More than half of all employees (management and non-management) will be hired from within the District.

  • Training programs will be provided to all workers who need them.

  • Ex-offenders seeking jobs will be treated fairly.

  • Women will be given equal employment, pay and promotional opportunities.

  • Stores will observe limited operating hours, to protect the small businesses that will undoubtedly be affected by Wal-Mart’s presence.

  • There will be genuine community input into all aspects of planning and design.

  • Traffic, environmental and economic studies will be carried out to alleviate any negative effects on neighborhoods.

  • Wal-Mart will pay all taxes and assessments in full.

  • Bonding will be established to ensure fulfillment of Wal-Mart’s obligations to workers and the community under the agreement.

Agreement on these points would go a long way toward addressing the concerns about the company that have been raised by labor and community leaders. Wal-Mart is no stranger to this approach; this year, it reached just such an agreement with local leaders in Chicago, which has been cited in news coverage as model for the retailer’s foray into the District.

I stand ready to welcome new jobs to the city. But I also stand ready to fight for the right of the people whom I serve to earn a living wage. For Wal-Mart, a company that measures its profits in billions of dollars, a community benefits agreement amounts to nothing less than economic justice. It could be the key to a long and successful presence in the District.

The writer is pastor of Israel Baptist Church in Northeast.

By Morris Shearin, Washington  | December 3, 2010; 7:35 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., economy  
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Comments

The thinking displayed by this author sums up what is wrong with the District. Wake up and get a clue!!

Posted by: maddogjts | December 5, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

This guy is a complete idiot. With thinking like this Wal-Mart should forget about going into the anti-business and anti-freedom DC.

Posted by: gadadavida | December 5, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Good points. Is it possible to see the Community Benefits Agreement you negotiated with Target, Wholefoods, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter, Lowes and Home Depot when they built their stores in the District? Wal-mart should be held to the same standard.

Posted by: DCbychoice | December 5, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

This pastor is making a fool of himself and trying to persuade people that Walmart is BAD for the community. He can't be further from the truth,---Walmart already offers a living wage for it's workers and communities where Walmart has established itself are much better off for it. Look at the states that have been hostile to Walmart and you will find California, New York, and other states with debt up to their a.. and unemployment above the national avg, they are elitist states that think they are above the class of people that shop at Walmarts all across the country. KEEP LISTENING TO THESE COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS AND YOU HAVE ANOTHER OBAMA AS YOUR LEADER IN THE COMMUNITY!

Posted by: hondochuk | December 6, 2010 4:05 AM | Report abuse

Holy mackerel! Slow your roll, pastor! Wal-Mart would be crazy to agree to such restrictions, and it is not the place of city government to ask for such concessions. Get real- where do we get off telling a company that it must hire only full-time employees at specific wage levels, that it is restricted to certain limited operating hours and that it must submit to community participation in corporate decisions such as planning and design?! Talk about "too much government"- this is ridiculous! And we wonder why these retailers don't want to locate here...

Posted by: kmm88 | December 6, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Pastor. As the city of Washington leaves behind those who have less some who stand for social justice must speak loudly and clearly to protect others. To you list I would add opportunities for small businesses to contract with Walmart to provide specific locally manufactured products. I would also support a community benefit that would provide opportunities for non-profits to train potential employees in a variety of areas of customer needs. As our new mayor takes office it is important that he supports the efforts to place District of Columbia residents first in every economic development effort.

Posted by: queenme | December 6, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Thank you pastor for your targeted comments that are needed to assure economic opportunity for district residents. As for other comments regarding "too much government" let us be assured that government represents the people, all of the people. For this reason alone they should assure a wage livable for each District of Columbia resident or be prepared to move on without that opportunity. You do not believe that Walmart is coming to have its bottom line in each store be in the red, or do you?

Posted by: queenme | December 6, 2010 6:36 PM | Report abuse

Don't let Wal-Mart get away with anything. Being a reasonable, responsible business will not hurt it's bottom line. I aways find it amazing when people are so pro-business they think a business has no responsiblities. If you're invited to someone's home, you follow the rules, you don't make them.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 8, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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