Walmart Hates Higher Wages So Much It’s Willing to Close Stores

Written by Aviva Shen

Walmart fought hard to persuade DC residents to let it open stores in the district. But now the retail giant is threatening to walk away from three planned sites if the DC City Council passes a “living wage” bill that would require all major employers to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 an hour.

Walmart claims that the bill, which applies to retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and stores that are 75,000 square feet or larger, is “arbitrary and discriminatory.”

In a Washington Post editorial, general manager Alex Barron issued an ultimatum to Mayor Vincent Gray: veto the bill, or Walmart will halt construction on stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue.

In less than 24 hours, the corporation is already seeing results: Some council members who voted for the living wage bill are now balking. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie said he is “going to give this some thought” because he voted yes “without knowing Walmart was going to pull out.”

Walmart is accustomed to singlehandedly taking down worker rights legislation.

Seven years ago, Walmart threatened to scrap its plans to open stores in Chicago after the city passed a similar living wage law. The mayor promptly vetoed the bill.

In March, New York raised its minimum wage but gave tax subsidies to Walmart and other firms that hire seasonal workers. Unions claimed at the time that Walmart had influenced the deal behind the scenes.

Other large stores like Costco, Home Depot, Target, and Macy’s would also have to abide by the DC proposal. But the new $12.50 minimum would be an especially dramatic change for Walmart, which currently pays workers 28 percent less on average than other large retailers, even as it reaps profits of nearly $450 billion a year. In contrast, Costco will have no problem meeting DC’s requirement if it passes — the average Costco worker currently makes $21.96 an hour.

Walmart’s refusal to pay their employees a livable wage translates into a bigger burden for taxpayers.

A Congressional report found that the workforce of a single Walmart store consume roughly a million dollars in public benefits every year, relying on “safety net” programs like Medicaid, food stamps, school lunch, and housing assistance to survive. Since Walmart is the largest private retailer in the nation, the full taxpayer cost of the store’s labor practices is exponentially higher.

Protests erupted in June and last November over Walmart’s worker abuses. Besides paying poverty level wages, Walmart has a strict policy against overtime pay, and workers allege that managers deny them bathroom breaks or basic medical accommodations.

The company also fired, suspended, and disciplined workers after the strikes last month, likely in retaliation.

Walmart was only allowed to start building in the nation’s capital after agreeing to a voluntary Community Partnership Initiative, in which the chain vowed to contribute $21 million to local charities, stock local products, allow space for local retailers, fund transportation measures, and create a citywide job training program for low-income and at-risk residents, among other conditions.

The DC Council will hold a final vote on the bill Wednesday.

UPDATE: The living wage bill has passed the DC Council 8-5 and is now on its way to Mayor Gray to either sign or veto.

This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.

Photo by Brave New Films

163 comments

Daniel May
Daniel May2 years ago

I shopp at family dollar and dollar general and brookshires cause i support small business.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Close them!!! Walmart sucks.

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

"Shameful that a company's employee can qualify for government assistance because they don't get paid enough or that a company actually helps their employees register for these benefits. Meaning Walmart is getting a tax subsidy".....................John D., guess what? The fact that Walmart offers their employees assistance to fill out forms means they're getting a tax subsidy? Really? Wow, with that logic, you should be a judge. They also help people fill out employee forms to get hired in the first place. I don't find anything wrong with that.......actually, quite the opposite. BTW, many jobs most of you "Walmart bashers" would probably consider well paying or not so low-paying as to qualify for assistance..........for example, civil service jobs and case workers for DSHS? Many of them get food stamps. This isn't just supposition...........I know of a few cases where it is absolutely fact. .

John Doucette
John Doucette3 years ago

Walmart isn't against higher wages. It's just against higher wages for its regular employees. I believe the Walton family is the richest family in the US. Can't take away from that by giving employees a wage they can actually live on. If you have CurrentTV, try to watch "Walmart: the High Cost of Low Wages." Shameful that a company's employee can qualify for government assistance because they don't get paid enough or that a company actually helps their employees register for these benefits. Meaning Walmart is getting a tax subsidy.

ER C.
ER C.3 years ago

I know this will not apply to everyone DEPENDING to how close they are located
______to a WAL-MAFIA MART.

………. If I have to DRIVE OUT OF my way
________& BURN EXTRA GAS to get __ SUPPOSEDLY __ lower prices
______ ( Phfffft ) ........ Then I won't do it.

I just go to a local cheap Gro. Sto. ... get what I need & LEAVE !

FART MART uses the psychological game of :

________Mmmmmm, WHAT’s THAT ? ? ?
________& next thing you know, You’ve bought something you did not go in there for.

___ LIKE THE CANDY & CHEAP TOY TRICK
...............AT THE CHECK OUT to make kids whine for one.
____ I 'ONT ONE ! ____ I 'ONT ONE ! ____ PLEEEEEEEEEEEZ !

______________ It's just like GASOLINE , why burn extra gas to get cheaper gas ?

Why buy FARTACUS MART ‘ MADE to BREAK ' merchandise from OVERSEAS.

DUH, USA CAN MAKE ' MADE to BREAK ' MERCHANDISE TOO.

_____ PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE ______

IF YOU ARE OLD ENOUGH, REMEMBER the 70's ?

IF YOU ARE NOT OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER the 70’s,
THEN THINK of MICROSOFT. Snort Snort

FARTACUS MART:
_______________ flatulates in their crooked stores,
_______________ in the hopes of passing the blame onto the masses.

ER C.
ER C.3 years ago

WOW FartMart acts like they are doing DC residents a FAVOR for opening stores !

Mayor Gray BETTER do the right thing ( open & pay “living wage” & KEEP THAT WAGE CURRENT )

Regardless, I don't see how opening more Nazi Regime Walmarts are doing any favors there.

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Good points, Wanda. That's exactly what I was saying as well. Not all jobs pay what they're worth......some pay far less than the work done justifies, while other things pay far more. Not saying that it's exactly ON TOPIC to bring a homemaker's wages/skills into this, but remember that when studies were done to figure out what a "housewife" was worth, they came up with a figure where few "husband's" would be able to afford to have a wife if he had to pay appropriately! So, a worker who stands at a door and says, "Welcome to Walmart" should be paid more than someone in charge of your child's health, preparing your meals or cleaning your home?

Wanda B.
Wanda Bagram3 years ago

Hypocrisy alert.

District government pays less than $12.50 per hour.

According to the D.C. Department of Human Resources, some full-time school maintenance workers and custodians make $11.75 per hour. The rate for a clerk at the University of the District of Columbia is $10.40.

Council members went to great lengths to criticize Walmart's pay scale. They should have taken care of their own business first.

The Council's thinking is flawed on other accounts, too. Their law targets Walmart while exempting other businesses from paying higher salaries.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo3 years ago

Thank you! Boycott Walmart!

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

I firmly believe that every worker, regardless of the job, deserves a living wage.