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Posted at 7:16 PM ET, 02/21/2011

Hold Wal-Mart to its promises in D.C.

By Keith Silver, Washington

Regarding the Feb. 14 editorial "The Wal-Mart opportunity":

It's clear that Wal-Mart's "carefully orchestrated campaign to win support and disarm critics" has succeeded with The Post.

How else to explain the editorial board arguing that Wal-Mart shouldn't be expected to jump through hoops or make concessions not expected of other businesses? But Wal-Mart is not like other businesses; it's the biggest corporation in the world, raking in a staggering $14 billion in profits annually.

What The Post calls concessions, I call accountability. Wal-Mart should not be welcomed to Washington unconditionally, given its record of low wages, environmental abuse, discrimination against women and African Americans and labor violations. Unlike The Post, community folk can't live on promises alone; we've had too many broken in the past. We need enforceable safeguards to ensure sustainable employment for D.C. residents and to protect the unique fabric of our neighborhoods.

As a native Washingtonian, I've lived through riots and rebuilding, and I passionately want more jobs and retail to flourish in neglected neighborhoods. But as a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for the Union Station area, a neighborhood that includes one of Wal-Mart's four proposed locations, I can clearly state, without hesitation, that Wal-Mart will not be welcomed in our community without a signed community-benefits agreement.

By Keith Silver, Washington  | February 21, 2011; 7:16 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, development, economy, real estate  
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I like WalMart and sooner the stores are built, the better. And, African Americans? There are only Americans, despite attempts from liberals to divide us.

Liberals are the problem. 2012. Solve the problem.

Posted by: 1911a1 | February 21, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

The simple fact is that Wal-Mart doesn't have to sign a blessed thing! "Community activists", ANCs, and the unions really don't have much leverage here. The proposed Wal-Mart in Ward 4 will located in a corridor that has been blighted for decades. I consider myself pretty liberal but I've grown tied with these self-righteous protestations against Wal-Mart coming to the city. Why not give people the opportunity to shop and work at Wal-Mart in DC (and pay our taxes) instead of in the suburbs?

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | February 22, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

When you're a guest in someone's house you don't make the rules.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 22, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

^How is Wal-Mart trying to make the rules?

Anyways, there is no logic or reason behind the connection that this author is trying to make between the fact that Wal-Mart is the world's largest corporation and the increased burden they it should endure in order to set up their business in DC that some are advocating.

Wal-Mart should not face burdens beyond what any other large retail businesses (e.g Target, B&N) faced when choosing to set up shop in the District. If you don't like Wal-Mart and the way that they do business you are free to not associate with them but that shouldn't prevent others from choosing to do so.

Posted by: Fitz157 | February 22, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

When you're a guest in someone's house you don't make the rules.

Posted by: jckdoors

Wal-Mart isn't trying to make any rules. They're want to establish stores in DC as allowed by the law. They are offering a community benefits package, however, they are not LEGALLY required to do so.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | February 22, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Frankly, while I appreciate Mr. Silver's attempts to hold Walmart's feet to the fire, it won't matter. No one is actually standing up to stop Walmart from entering the city, despite the fact that we know their record and know the damage they do to a local economy. "Blighted" locations or not, Walmart will devastate local businesses and cost more to the taxpayer than they will ever generate in local revenues and jobs.

Bottom line, they can promise you the moon, but no one is stopping them from coming here, so once they are entrenched with their giant, pedestrian-shunning buildings in the center of their seas of parking spaces, there will be no reasoning, no cajoling, no getting them to do anything they don't want to do.

Posted by: turnageb | February 22, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Wal-Mart can indeed be dissuaded. There are a number of communities that have rejected them.

As for the tax benefits, etc. they produce, there is substantial research that shows they repatriate their dollars to Arkansas, unlike local businesses whose dollars are spent locally, and we, the taxpayers, wind up subsidizing their employees in Medicaid and food stamps because they don't pay enough/give their workers enough hours.

For more:

I realize the corporations want all municipalities to engage in a race to the bottom out of desperation, but just because they want it doesn't mean we have to give it to them.

Posted by: dclioness1 | February 23, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Interesting points 'dclioness', Seems like every dollar spent theses days is going to some ?? state in the south.. I'm a Whole Foods addict, yet totally offended by their TX 'all the way to the bank' strategy- mea maxima culpa. How gullible are we that a dazzling new Gelato store is coming to DC from a Dallas corporation, va bene?

Wal-Mart can indeed be dissuaded. There are a number of communities that have rejected them.

As for the tax benefits, etc. they produce, there is substantial research that shows they repatriate their dollars to Arkansas, unlike local businesses whose dollars are spent locally....

Posted by: dclioness1 | February 23, 2011 10:03 AM

Posted by: LeastOfThese | February 23, 2011 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Dclioness1, I second your insightful comments and the valuable resource in the New Rules studies.

There is no requirement for Wal-mart to provide a community benefits package, nor is there leverage to force it, nor is there any benefits package possible that can counteract the harm they do to the communities they enter.

Yes, low priced consumer goods and low-threshhold employment opportunites are both worthy goals, but Wal-mart is known to be a retail killer and to depress wages and benefits for retail employees.
Careful studies have suported the "zero-sum-game theory," that retail sales generated by big box stores are offset by sales lost at existing local retail stores. And that there is no net gain of jobs after those lost to local retailers going out of business as a result are accounted for; and furthermore, that the new jobs do not compare favorably in the quality of those jobs, in terms of pay, benefits packages, longevity and opportunities for advancement. The benefits packages for which their employees may be eligible are actually unaffordable to their payscale, and consequently they come to depend upon public assistance to supplement their food and health care costs.

We must carefully consider the impact of our consumption and spending, the consequences of buying goods that must be transported from overseas sweatshops half a world away, and sending our money to the world's largest retailers, which then means that our retail dollars produce no economic benefit to our community, as opposed to what occurs when we shop locally and support local businesses which in turn support local charitable and community organizations.

Do we really want to take a chance on trading the Florida Avenue Market, Eastern Market, and our other local businesses for Wal-mart?

Posted by: BobbiKrengel | February 23, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse

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