05.04.2011 0

The War on Walmart: D.C. labor bosses and community organizers dislike the big jobs provider

Walmart Store

By Adam Bitely – No one needs to tell you how big an issue unemployment is in America, and especially in Washington, D.C. As of March 2011, the District of Columbia posted an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent.

Knowing that the unemployment rate is that high might surprise you when you learn that D.C. politicians, labor unions, and community organizers are trying everything they can to block one of the largest job providers and retailers in the world from coming to Washington. These supposed “leaders” want to prevent Walmart from setting up shop, which would prevent the creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs for D.C. residents.

The grocery industry is one of the few remaining industries where labor unions thrive. While most sectors are seeing a decline in unions, grocery stores have remained a powerhouse for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). A threat to this labor-organizing stronghold is Walmart, a company that is not unionized and has taken drastic measures to prevent their shops from falling under the labor union’s heavy hand.

Because Walmart is able to price their products lower than their competitors, they are able to force their competitors to change business practices or close-up altogether, which has been a blow to the grocery store labor unions. The UFCW is not concerned about whether or not people have jobs in a city where unemployment is hovering around double digits, rather, they are concerned that they are able to corner the market on the grocery stores to keep their political power intact.

In an effort to protect that power, the UFCW formed a coalition with other dubiously motivated community organizers to promote their cause. The groups joined together to spearhead a smear-campaign called Respect D.C. that aims to force Walmart to sign a “Community Benefits Agreement.” This agreement, which Walmart will most likely never sign, would commit Walmart to all sorts of demands being levied by groups seeking to benefit themself from Walmart’s success.

The list of demands from Respect D.C. in their “Respect D.C. Agreement” is as follows:

• Pay every employee the D.C. living wage, currently $12.50 per hour.
• Provide $50 a month in public transportation subsidy to every employee.
• Employ at least 65 percent of its D.C. employees on a full-time basis.
• Not ask job applicants about previous criminal convictions.
• Use project labor agreements to construct its stores.
• Fund all infrastructure improvements made necessary by its stores.
• Provide free shuttle transportation to and from the nearest Metro station to each D.C. store every 10 minutes.
• Commit to traffic alleviation studies.
• Provide up to 2.5 free or low-priced parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of building space.
• Provide secure, accessible bicycle parking, car sharing and bike sharing for workers and shoppers.
• Not sell firearms or ammunition.
• Employ no less than two off-duty D.C. police officers on its premises at all times.
• Abide by a “code of conduct with regard to its employees’ freedom to choose a voice on the job without interference.”
• Fund workforce training programs for D.C. residents, and use training programs as its primary avenue for hiring D.C. residents.
• Hire at least 40 percent of its employees at each store from the ward in which the store is located.
• Make “ongoing contributions to a fund managed by a council of community stakeholders” that will provide incentives and support to local small businesses.
• Make ongoing payments for community funds controlled by “community advisory councils” for education and faith-based programs.

These demands, to put it gently, are ludicrous. Such a document must make one wonder if the folks behind Respect DC ever want those 9.5 percent of the population of Washington D.C. to ever have a job again.

But such outlandish statements don’t end with the “Community Bargaining Agreement.” One prominent Respect D.C. leader, Brenda Speaks who is a Ward 4 Advisory Neighborhood Council commissioner, argued that if Walmart were to open in her community, then D.C. youths would all turn to a life of shoplifting and gain extensive police records. Where this suspect gem of data originated is unknown, but something tells me that Brenda Speaks doesn’t seem to care too much about the facts. Her goal is to make sure that Walmart stays away.

One must wonder what motivates these community organizers against Walmart. Do these supposed community “leaders” like seeing their neighbors in a state of unemployment? Do they like restricting competition between grocery stores, which results in already impoverished people having to pay more at the checkout? Do these “leaders” and “organizers” sleep well at night knowing that they work to stop people from having choices about where their hard earned money is spent? Or is it that these “leaders” are being bribed by Big Labor and other politicians to stand against the company that will limit the power of the labor union’s through free market forces?

The people behind Respect D.C. seem to be more like poverty pimps than “leaders” in their community. The Washington City Paper points out that the residents in one of the neighborhoods where Walmart plans to open soon are pretty excited to the chagrin of the people at Respect DC. The best interest of the people of the community is that they be given a fair choice on where they shop, and the folks at Respect D.C. are doing everything they can to prevent that.

Once Walmart opens for business in Washington, it won’t be long until the complaints from these radical, union-backed groups are shut up. Walmart has always won, and so have the consumers. Cheaper is better, and if it weren’t, Walmart would have been out of business long ago. These charlatans that pretend to be representing the members of their community will be proven wrong on all their ludicrous fears, and I look forward to running into them on one of the many grocery aisles at my new neighborhood Walmart.

Adam Bitely is the Editor-in-Chief of NetRightDaily.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdamBitely.

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