Walmart and the Battle Over a Living Wage is Hell for Workers

Walmart and the Battle Over a Living Wage is Hell for Workers

A Walmart job is degrading

Walmart country. I come from Arkansas, Walmart country. Growing up in my small town outside of Little Rock, we had what was known as Walmart Store, Number Five. It had no groceries, no automotive, a barebones retailer bent on small-town charm.

That was thirty years ago. Walmart stands currently as both the world’s largest retailer and the world’s largest private employer. And now I live on the east coast, a territory free from Walmart’s reach, for now.

The DC City Council has been embroiled in a war over what has been dubbed the “Walmart Bill” (or the Large Retailer Accountability Act) legislation that would require Walmart and other large box store retailers to pay at least $12.50 an hour.

DC’s current minimum wage stands at $8.25, a dollar more than the federal minimum wage. The average apartment rental in DC is over $1,500. $8.25 at 40 hours a week. . .you can do the math.

The DC city council passed the bill with an 8-5 vote, only for it to be vetoed by Mayor Vincent Gray with the council later unable to override that veto. Walmart threatened to pull its plans to build three stores in the District and halt construction on three stores already in progress should the bill become law.

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Walmart is bad. I’m truly torn on this issue. As stated, I’m from Arkansas, and I’ve seen what Walmart can do to a town, driving out small businesses, turning cities inside out by leaving downtowns deserted. When I was job hunting one summer in college, I applied at Walmart. As with all applicants, I was made to watch an anti-union video. Walmart workers often rely on government assistance to make ends meet.

But. . .

DC, though somewhat sheltered from the great recession’s impact, needs jobs. And more importantly, the company on condition of being allowed in the market, promised to put some of its new stores in low-income, impoverished areas. DC, like so many other urban centers, has a vast food desert (, where fresh fruits and vegetables lay out of reach to many. Washington, DC, has come along way since the urban blight and high crime of the 1980s and early 1990s. Tony Northwest DC, home to the trendy Dupont Circle and U Street Neighborhoods are vibrant showcases of urban renewal. But redevelopment and retail dollars have been slow to come to other areas of the city. Many hope that Walmart’s arrival will change all that.

Too, the Walmart stores planned look like no Walmarts I’ve ever seen. . .tree-lined, attractive glass structures that would rival any urban shopping center in any city. I’m used to vast concrete sections of parking lot leading up to sore-thumb giant blue boxes that look as though they landed in a field overnight.


Foes of the Walmart Bill heralded its defeat, calling it short-sided, slap-shod legislation hurried through a liberal, pro-union city council. Proponents of the bill argued that Walmart’s track record on everything from paying a living wage to discrimination is clear. In what is perhaps the largest case of its kind, 1,975 women from practically every state joined a class action suit against Walmart, claiming discrimination in pay and promotions. That is merely one in an array of litigation against the retailer.

Walmart’s plans to build six stores in DC proceed.

We shall see. . .

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